Linux on the Sony Vaio PCG-F807K notebook

Summary and disclaimer

The short story is that I have successfully installed RedHat with XFree86 from CD-rom on this machine alongside Windows 2000. I am not expert with Linux, my previous experience being limited to getting RedHat running on a desktop last year. Please remember that in what follows!

The machine

This is a Sony "Europe-only" model. Whether it is identical to something sold elsewhere under a different model number, I don't know. It has a 12 Gb Hard Disk (Sony gigabytes that is - it is nearer 11Gb according to everybody else's measure), DVD, internal modem, ATI Rage Mobility P/M AGP 2x video card with 8Mb memory and a 1024x768 14" screen.

Making space

The machine comes with Windows 2000 and the disk occupied with a large (about 9Gb) C drive (containing windows 2000, etc) and a smaller D drive (empty). I decided to keep this set-up, but scaled down to make room for Linux. I reinstalled windows from Sony's "rescue disks" selecting an option where the C drive is 6Mb and everything else is D. There seems to be no facility for leaving space on the disk at this stage. I then booted the machine from the RedHat 7.0 CD and used disk druid to delete the D: partition and put some linux partitions in place, leaving about 1.25Gb unoccupied. I then finished installing Linux (see below for details). I then booted DOS and from windows used the Windows 2000 "Computer management" facility to create a D occupying the 1.25 Gb left for this purpose. I found this program (which is under Control Panel/Admin Tools/Computer Management) quite useful for seeing and messing around with partitions while I was experimenting. I saw no sign of one of these "hibernation partitions" that are often present in machines that can hibernate.


RedHat 7.0

The machine booted fine from a RedHat 7.0 CD. The installation switched automatically to text mode. Other than that it went smoothly as far as XFree86 configuration. Here the video-card was correctly identified, but it was unable to probe the memory, etc. I tried various settings for the monitor (generic LCD panel 1024x768 and non-interlaced SVGA 60Hz, the latter inspired by the windows set-up), etc, but the X-server would crash when I opted for it to be tested. I went on and finished the installation. I was unable to get X working with any of Xconfigurator, XF86Setup and XFree86 with the option "-configure".

RedHat 6.2 followed by upgrade

I finally tried going back to install RedHat 6.2 from a CD that in fact came with a book. This installed fine in graphics mode including XFree86 with no hitches. (My memory is that I had tried this earlier on, and that it had failed in a similar way to 7.0 - either my memory is faulty or I did something silly first time round or something is subtly different this time. I really don't know.)

Having tested briefly and seen that X was working, I booted from the RedHat 7.0 disk, selected "upgrade existing installation", let everything else take the default option, and I now seem to have 7.0 up and running just fine with X. Why I couldn't install it directly is a mystery to me. Here is the XF86Config file that results from all this.

Summary and other remarks

Linux seems to be working fine: I can log in and out, run emacs, copy files to and from the floppy drive and run X-windows. The configuration utilities do not find the "winmodem" and I expect this is difficult or impossible to use under Linux. I have made one brief unsuccessful attempt to configure the sound card, so that may be a problem too.

On the subject of sound, I received the following in an email from Andreas Kurth: "The Yamaha sound chip can be easily driven using the OSS kernel modul ymfpci, which is included at least in kernel 2.4.3. I had absolutely no problem compiling and installing the driver and it works fine on my F807K."

Toby Bailey