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Sony VAIO VGN Series The following relates installation of Fedora Core 3 on a Sony Vaio VGN-A170P laptop. This should work on most of the laptops from the VGN-A* series as they are basically variations on the same core.


After acquiring one of the superb Vaio VGN series laptop, with its wondrous 17" 1920x1200 ultrabright display, I decided to install Fedora on a partition to coexist with the original WindowsXP.

I'm trying to cut down on my dependency on Windows software, and as I preach for a greater use of Linux and OSS in the business world, I have to do as I say.
I can't get rid of Windows totally as I still rely on some software and programming environment such as VisualStudio to build Win32 and .Net applications, and on software like CorelDraw! that have not yet crossed over well enough to be used in a production environment.


I won't go in the details of partitioning the drive. there are a number of utilities that do that very well. I just created a 15GB partition, changed the boot sequence in the BIOS (press the F2 key when booting) and booted from a Fedora Core 3 boot CD.

I generally use network installation as I have copied the full install on one of the servers on my network and shared them using NFS. If you have the FC3 DVD or set of CDs, you'll do just as well although it will be a bit slower.

Just make a standard install, be carefull not to install over your existing Windows partitions and to avoid touching the first partition of your drive which contains the recovery data for your laptop. Check that Grub will give you a choice of OS when you boot and then choose the packages you want to install. grub should be installed on the Master Boot Record (MBR) of the hard drive, /dev/hda. The rest is a breeze and should not bring any issue. Reboot your PC, select your Fedora OS and just go through the initial on-screen configuration.


The first thing to do is to update the distribution before we start tinkering with it. Open a terminal, insert the Fedora Core installation disk and, once the CD/DVD has been mounted, type the following to ensure that the digital signatures for the verification of packages are loaded:

# mount cdrecorder
# rpm --import /media/cdrecorder/RPM*

I also recommend to use the DAG repository as it contains a lot more intereting packages: Create the file /etc/yum.repos.d/dag.repo and insert the following lines into it:


Get Dag's Dag's PGP key, save it and import it as we did before:

# rpm --import RPM-GPG-KEY.dag.txt

We are now ready to update and isntall anything we want:

# yum -y update

The -y will allow us to do something else while yum is going about its work. Otherwise, it will wait for you to confirm the changes in the middle of the process, which can be quite long.

One thing to do is to remove unnecessary services that consume resources on your machine: you can use the Services applet from the menu System Settings -> Server Settigns -> Services. You can generally remove services such as isdn, httpd, sendmail, spamassassin, that are not needed on a laptop.

Reboot and you're done.

To install a new application, say mplayer to play movies, we just need to invoke the powers of yum again:

# yum -y install mplayer

It will download everything needed for mplayer to work, resolving dependencies for you.

Graphic Display

For some reason, the Fedora tools have a hard time picking up the right display settings for the configuration, so we need to edit the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file ourselves.

Here are 2 versions:

  • Single Head display, the laptop screen only.
  • Dual Head display, with a second LCD monitor connected to the laptop and located at the right of the laptop. The second monitor is only 1024x768 in resolution. You may have to tinker with this config to make it work for you.

Note: don't use the Screen Resolution or Display Config tools found in the Applications menu, they would mess up the config file.
Don't try to use the official proprietory ATI driver either, it doesn't work well on a laptop it seems.

Textmode Display

The default textmode display used by the kernel when you boot is horrendous: doesn't cut it at all on such a beautiful machine capabable of so much more.
To switch to something a lot more comfortable, add the following lines to your /etc/rc.d/rc.local file:

modprobe radeonfb
service gpm restart

This will load the proper framebuffer kernel module to drive our ATI card to its fullest, and reload the textmode mouse driver to take advantage of our new whooping 240x75 resolution, that's bout 18k of screen space or 9 times the default resolution.

Note: you will still boot in the default textmode until all the services are loaded. To make the kernel switch to the ATI framebuffer we would need to recompile that support into the kernel rather than being an external module. You would then be able to add a simple video=radeonfb parameter to the kernel boot. However, I tend to avoid having to recompile kernels these days: you would have to recompile it everytime you want to update your system with a new kernel, and that's plainly not something worth spending that much time on.


The stock fonts are quite horrible and look quite bad. The best thing I found was to import the True Type Fonts from my existing Windows setup and use those instead:

  • copy all your TTF files into /USR/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/TTF directory and make sure that that directory is added to the catalogue directive in the /etc/X11/fs/config file.
  • cd /USR/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/TTF then type mkfontscale then mkfontdir
  • restard the font server with service xfs restart.
  • open a File Browser window and type fonts: in its URL bar. Open another File Browser window and go to your /USR/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/TTF folder, select all the files and drop them into the first File Browser. Nothing will seem to happen, that's normal.
  • reboot or log-off and you should now be able to access the new fonts from all applications that use them.

Open the Font Preferences dialog under Application -> Preferences -> Fonts and select the following:

  • Application font: Tahoma, 8pt
  • Desktop font: Tahoma 8pt
  • Window title font: trebuchet MS, 10pt
  • Terminal font: Lucida Console, 8pt

Under the Font rendering section, click Details... :

  • Resolution should be 96dpi
  • Smoothing set to Subpixel (LCDs)
  • Hinting set to None.
  • Subpixel order, leave to default RGB.

Under Mozilla/Firebird, under Edit -> Preferences..., General Tab, click Fonts & Colors...:

  • Proportional: Serif, Size 16px
  • Serif: Times New Roman
  • Sans-serif: Arial
  • Monospace: Courier New, 13px
  • Display Resolution:96 dpi
  • Minimum font size: None

Now all those parameters suit me most, you may find others better suited for you. I'm a bit disapointed though that fonts are still an issue to get right. The results are not so pleasing.

Wireless adapter

Once you have updated your installation with yum as mentionned above, you will notice after rebooting that the wireless network adapter will have been detected and configured automatically as eth1. You can then use the normal network Configuration tools to set it up, providing you enabled it with the switch on the front of the laptop.

Note: Don't try to set up the wireless before you've up updated your system. It would be hard work for nothing.

Function buttons

Those little buttons that adjust brightness, volume, eject the CD need special software to work. Fortunately, some nice people have done most of the hard work for us:

  • Download the sonypid abd spicctrl pagackes from Stelian Pop's website.
  • build the RPM packages and install them:
rpmbuild -tb spicctrl-X.Y.tar.bz2
rpmbuilt -tb sonypid-X.Y.tar.bz2
cd /usr/src/redhat/RPMS/i386
rpm -ivh spicctrl-X.Y.i386.rpm
rpm -ivh sonypid-X.Y.i386.rpm

Now the problem is these utilities by themselves don't do much, in particular sonypid is pretty useless on this Vaio, unless I am missing something and someone can tell me how to make it do anything useful on my model.
The thing to know is that once loaded, the sonypi kernel module will send events that can be collected simply by reading the /dev/sonypi device.

Kevin J. Smith has a few more information on his Sony Vaio page, but doing as he said would do nothing for me, so I rolled a very quick and very dirty script to load at boot and control the basic stuff:

  • eject the CD tray
  • adjusting the screen brightness with the Fn-F5 and Fn-F6 keyboard keys.

And that's it. The Mute button doesn't need the sonypi module to work properly, and the other volume control, adaptive brightness button and special buttons all report the same event code through sonypi, which make them pretty useless.

Anyway, just copy the following into a file sonystuff:

#!/usr/bin/perl -w
my $settingfile = '/etc/sonystuff.brightness';
#Get the last brightness setting at boot
`spicctrl -b\`cat $settingfile\`` if -e $settingfile;
#Awaiting events from the sonypi kernel module forever
open SONYPI,"/dev/sonypi";
my $b="";
do {
        $b = ord($b);
        if ($b==27) {
                `eject cdrecorder`;
        } elsif ($b==16 || $b==17) {
                my $bright = `spicctrl -B`;
                chomp $bright;
                fiatLux($bright - 20) if $b==16;
                fiatLux($bright + 20) if $b==17
} while(1);
#Change the brightness setting and save it
sub fiatLux {
        my $lux = shift;
        $lux = 0   unless $lux > 0;
        $lux = 255 unless $lux < 255;
        `spicctrl -b$lux; echo $lux > $settingfile`;

I told you, this is very quick and dirty, but it will work and save the brightness setting accross reboots.
Now just make this script executable and load at boot as we did before:

chmod 755 sonystuff
mv sonystuff /usr/bin

Then call our script from /etc/rc.d/rc.local by adding the following:

modprobe sonypi
/usr/bin/sonystuff > /dev/null &

Note: Don't forget the & to make the script run in the background.

Not particularly elegant, but effective for now. If I have more time and the incentive to to better, I'll post it here in a future update.

Bits and Tips

  • The DVD Recorder should work out of the box.
  • I haven't tried Bluetooh yet but it should work without problem. You will find more information in the links below.
  • The modem is a windmodem, meaning that in our case it isn't recognised by the system and will probably require some efforts to work. I don't need it right now but I will look into it later and report my finding then.


FuzieFriday 21 June 2013, at 11:22 GMT+8 [X]
I am also facing the same issue..Even after criaetng this symlink and adding the -Dorg option in my eclipse.ini file also my Eclipse is crashing for every simple content assist.I also tried starting my Eclipse as super user. Still the error exists..Please let me know if any other thing needs to be done to get this resolved.Eclipse 3.5( Galileio) on Fedora 16Thanks,Ravi
MakibulFriday 21 June 2013, at 18:25 GMT+8 [X]
Any ideas on how to apply this to SSMS 2012? I'm not seeing the resgrtiy key. This color scheme is awesome would love to use it in 2012. Any ideas on the font, colors etc might have to manually edit it for the time being.Thanks!
WimpySaturday 22 June 2013, at 01:38 GMT+8 [X]
There is a third method just set the parssowd for the root user!neo:/home/neo> sudo passwd rootEnter new UNIX parssowd:Retype new UNIX parssowd:passwd: parssowd updated successfullyneo:/home/neo>It might also be necessary to set up root's home directory in /etc/passwd, a trivial task for an experienced admin.Of course, this method sort of defeats the whole purpose of disabling the root user, but IMHO that's just stuff and nonsense. The root user has the power to destroy the entire system. The Ubuntu default strategy is to put 5 keystrokes between an inexperienced admin and Armageddon.sudo rm -rf /usr/bin(seen it happen), 5 keystrokes. There's some safety. That's like using toy balloons for airbags. So long as you don't drive into a tree, they work fine.
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