February 21, 2010

Running Ubuntu on a Sony S Series VPCS11V9E

This entry is unlikely to be of any interest to anyone who isn't trying to run Ubuntu on the Sony S Series VPCS11V9E laptop. I've had one of said laptops for a week or two now and although I've got both Windows 7 and Ubuntu installed on it, I've been finding myself running Ubuntu almost all the time. However, there've been a couple of niggles to sort out, and not quite everything is working fully. I suspect most of that is down to it being a very new machine, but thought I'd jot down some of my findings (and ways that I've fixed things) in case it helps anyone else, or in case someone can suggest how to fix the remaining issues.

I must admit I've not spent much time trying to fix things - it's been a busy few weeks with work, so if I haven't found a solution with half-an-hour to an hour's playing around then I've tended to leave it as is. Which is basically me pointing out that a lot of what remains might well be fixable - I've got enough working for most of what I need.

I'll try to update this as time goes on and more stuff gets fixed, and I'll include a date for any updates. So if the last update is more than a few months ago then it's quite possible the world has moved on and fixed things.

Base Install

The base install has been Ubuntu 9.10 "Karmic Koala", the 64-bit desktop edition. Out-of-the-box a lot of the system worked, including Bluetooth, the display, keyboard, trackpad, Ethernet...

What Worked With Some Help

These are things I've got working, but required some extra work over the base install:
  • WiFi card. To get that working I needed to install the "linux-backports-modules-karmic" package.
  • 3G modem. I haven't quite got this working yet, as I think it will need gobi loader to be installed to load the firmware. If you're going to completely wipe Windows 7 from your machine and want to use this on Ubuntu then make sure you copy the firmware files from the Windows 7 install before you remove it. If you warm reboot after running Windows 7 (so boot into Windows 7 then just reboot into Ubuntu) then the firmware will be loaded already and you can just run sudo modprobe usbserial vendor=0x05c6 product=0x9225 to load the driver, and then you should be able to configure it through Network Connections' Mobile Broadband tab.
  • Built-in speakers. With the basic install, using the headphone jack for sound works just fine, but if I don't have anything plugged into the headphone jack then I don't get any sound at all. To fix that I installed the "linux-backports-modules-alsa" package.
  • Firewire. Have only used it to capture video, but that works fine.

What Doesn't Work

This is what I've not been able to get working properly yet, hopefully the list will shorten over time...
  • The Nvidia screen drivers. Using the free "nv" graphics drivers works pretty well, but you can't adjust the brightness (and I don't know if/how well the external monitor support works), but enabling the Nvidia proprietary drivers just results in a black screen when I boot up. You can fix that by booting in recovery mode to a shell prompt and editing /etc/X11/xorg.conf to change the "nvidia" line to "nv" in the Device Driver section.
  • Suspend/resume. The system will suspend without any apparent problems, but trying to resume just results in a blank screen for me.
  • Webcam. This seems to be partly recognised - when I try setting it up in Skype (the only thing I've tried so far) then the "webcam turned on" green LED turns on, but I haven't seen any video come from it.
  • Built-in microphone. Have just tried the Skype test call, and the microphone doesn't appear to be working.

What I Haven't Tested

Things I haven't tried yet, so can't comment on whether or not they work...
  • SD card reader
  • Memory Stick reader
  • External monitor - either VGA or HDMI connector
  • Docking station (or whatever it is that the connector underneath is supposed to connect to...)

Update 11/12/2010. Move to Ubuntu 10.04

I'd held off upgrading to 10.04 for a while because when I tried the Live CD I didn't get any display. However, I had another play around with it, and also tried the 10.10 Live CD. I get the same problem of no display with both of those, but if I hit F6 when the CD is booting, and add the "nomodeset" option then both work fine. So I've just upgraded to 10.04.

The only difference, functionality-wise, is the sound-card. With the "linux-backports-modules-alsa" package installed I get the sound through both the internal speakers and the headphones when something is plugged into the headphone jack. For now, because the internal speakers aren't that important to me, I've just removed the "linux-backports-modules-alsa" package and gone back to the internal speakers not working at all.

Update 28/05/2011. Now on Ubuntu 10.10

The SD card reader now works, as does the internal webcam. The 3G modem also seems to mostly work, although at times it's been a bit troublesome - I haven't spent any time trying to work out why, as I don't use it very often.

I've also just worked out how to get the speakers working properly (which is what prompted this update). If you go into the "Output" tab on "Sound Preferences" and change the "Connector" setting to "Analog Speakers" (it was set to "Analog Output" on mine) then the speakers will work, and be muted correctly when you plug something into the headphone socket.


Posted by Adrian at February 21, 2010 06:21 PM | TrackBack

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You might want to look at this thread for fixing sound on internal speakers... No answer for the mic just yet.


Posted by: Matt at April 26, 2010 04:15 PM

Hi Matt,

Thanks for the pointer. I had actually managed to get the speakers working by installing the backports module for alsa, but hadn't had chance to update the post. Will do so now.

Posted by: Adrian at April 26, 2010 10:11 PM
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