Installing Linux on a Sony VAIO PCG-Z600NE

Basic specs

PentiumIII SpeedStep 650MHz, 128Mb RAM, 12Gb disk, 12.1" TFT LCD display, 10/100Mb Ethernet, 16x external CD-ROM, external USB floppy, i-LINK, modem, audio, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.

    $ lspci -vt
    -[00]-+-00.0  Intel Corporation 440BX/ZX - 82443BX/ZX Host bridge
	  +-01.0-[01]----00.0  Neomagic Corporation: Unknown device 0016
	  +-07.0  Intel Corporation 82371AB PIIX4 ISA
	  +-07.1  Intel Corporation 82371AB PIIX4 IDE
	  +-07.2  Intel Corporation 82371AB PIIX4 USB
	  +-07.3  Intel Corporation 82371AB PIIX4 ACPI
	  +-08.0  Sony Corporation CXD3222 i.LINK Controller
	  +-09.0  Yamaha Corporation YMF-744B [DS-1S Audio Controller]
	  +-0a.0  CONEXANT: Unknown device 2443
	  +-0b.0  Intel Corporation 82557 [Ethernet Pro 100]
	  +-0c.0  Ricoh Co Ltd RL5c475
	  \-0d.0  Sony Corporation Memory Stick Controller

This spec differs somewhat from the Z600RE. Processor speed has been increased to 650MHz, the modem is now built in rather than coming on a card. However most important of all the graphics chip is different, being a NeoMagic NM2380.


Updated 14th June 2001. Nearly a year in with the machine and a lot of installs under the belt, it's proving to be a stable system. I've still had little time to play with some features but support is improving all the time.

With the support in the newer distributions most of the rest of this page is redundant. I've left it in place for people playing with the older configs.


  • System stable with a 2.4.5-ac13
  • XFree86 4.0.3 is installed and working fine with KDE 2.1.1
  • CD-ROM fully functional
  • USB floppy and other devices OK
  • Ethernet working at 100Mb
  • Power management working
  • Sound card
  • Jog wheel

Things I've not tried:

  • IrDA
  • That modem - It's Winmodem rubbish
  • Memory stick - don't have one so unlikely to try
  • i-LINK - ditto. Nothing to try it with


  • Battery life stinks. Approx 1 hour
  • CPU fan gets wearing after a while


As already said the Z600RE and NE differ somewhat. However much of the information on successful configuration I gleaned from the Z600RE configuration pages.

My thanks to Thomas Renard, Andy Schofield and Holger Frahm. Especially Holger whose style I plagiarised for this page.

All the above were found via Kenneth E. Harker's excelent Linux on Laptops page. Unfortunatly the link has died but a very useful alternative is the Linux Mobile Guide.

Red Hat 7.1 and Jog Wheel

Red Hat 7.1 installed from CD straight out the box, even the boot prompt magic to detect the CD was no longer required.

I've been meaning to get the jog wheel going for some time and the 2.4.5-ac13 kernel came to my rescue with a built in driver. All you need in addition is the user mode support daemon from Alcove Labs. See /usr/src/linux/Documentation/sonypi.txt in the new kernel for more info.

SuSE 7.1

Updated 11th April 2001. What a difference eight months make. Just installed SuSE 7.1 with a 2.4.0 kernel and a lot more things work straight out the box. I've left a lot of the info here for people with the older distributions but the only thing I had to do for a SuSE install was supply the boot prompt magic ide2=0x180,0x386.

Memory stick and i-LINK devices are now recognised in the lspci output which is promising. I still have no hardware to check with.

I've changed my disk partitioning leaving hda4 with 150Mb set to type A0 for hibernation. See for more information. Suspend to disk now works every time.


This document describes the steps I took and what worked for me. Not all may be necessary or even correct for your system.

Do this at your own risk. If your machine bursts into flames or you lose a lifetime of data don't come crying to me. There are no guarantees whatsoever ...

Initial install

The computer comes pre-loaded with some demonstration software from a company called Microsoft. This was not functional on my system. I waited more than 30 seconds looking at a badly anti-aliased logo before abandoning it with the three fingered salute.

I'm blowing the demo software away. If for some perverse reason you want to keep the demo you'll have to cook your own at this point. Andy Schofield amongst others has some hints on how to make space on the disk.

My current installation is Debian potato test-cycle-1 installed from the external PCMCIA CD-ROM drive. Before settling on this distribution I also tried and succeeded in installing Mandrake 7.0 and SuSE 6.2

First entering the BIOS setup by pressing <F2> while the Sony logo is displayed I set the clock to GMT (it was previously 9 hours advanced, Japanese time ?).

On the advanced page I disabled Plug & Pray as being of no use to Linux although this is rumored to cause problems for the demo software. I also disabled the animated logo on power up because this annoys me.

I left all other BIOS setting at their installation default, saving and exiting config.

At the LILO boot prompt I entered linux ide2=0x180,0x386 as this is a common requirement for Sony laptops in order to be able to find the CD-ROM after boot. Mandrake added this parameter to /etc/lilo.conf as append = "ide2=0x180,0x386" in the appropriate place. You may need to add this manually in other distributions.

I chose the following partitioning for the disk:

    /dev/hda1   /       4Gb
    /dev/hda2   /var    500Mb
    /dev/hda3   swap    500Mb
    /dev/hda4   /home   7Gb

Installing Mandrake 7.0

At the network setup stage the card was given as an "Intel Pro 100" and the system auto probed the interface parameters correctly.

X setup would only allow me a 640x480 display since it failed to recognise the NeoMagic graphics chip and dropped back to a generic VGA configuration.

Installation from the CD completed the system was rebooted and promptly locked up whilst bringing up the Ethernet interface. This required a forced power cycle by holding the power slider for 4 seconds.

System was rebooted with the Ethernet cable unplugged and it came up. Once booted plugging the Ethernet cable in worked OK.

Installing SuSE 6.4

The installation system chose a very low resolution graphics display making it very difficult to complete.

Installing Debian potato test-cycle-1

Text based install completed successfully leaving me to setup the X server as a separate step.


My first installation trial was with Mandrake and since Ethernet operation seemed a little flaky and just in case any recent advances would help with any other hardware I decided to download an updated kernel. Since I had nothing of value stored on the machine (yet) I could risk a little bit of instability and I went for 2.4.0-test2.

This kernel configured, compiled and installed without problem and looked to have fixed the Ethernet hang if nothing else.

Subsequent experience with this kernel revealed problems with power management and operation of X-windows. On later installs I downloaded and used the 2.2.16 kernel with greater success.

My 2.2.16 kernel .config file.


Again since I was having trouble with the XFree86 server I thought an upgrade to the latest release was worth a try. I downloaded XFree86 4.0.1 binaries and installed them as a fresh install having backed up my old all be it crippled version.

Once installed X11 configuration remained a problem. The graphical configurator Xcfg couldn't get a toe hold to bootstrap itself and Xconfigure produced a non-working Xserver.

The touch pad was a standard PS/2 auxdev mouse with only two buttons. No idea how to use the jog wheel just yet.

I guessed scan rates for the LCD panel. Copying them from elsewhere. Is it possible to damage an LCD panel by over scanning ? Does anyone have the true figures to use ?

    Section "Monitor"
	Identifier  "LCD Panel 1024x768"
	HorizSync   31.5-48.5
	VertRefresh 60

The NeoMagic graphics device was the real trick it's a NM2380 rev 16 not recognised by the previous server. Setting the device driver to neomagic and the Chipset to neo2380 (both these names being XFree86 4.0 specific I think) the service still crashed on startup.

Finally setting VideoRam 4096 rather than letting the system decide RAM size for itself produced a working server.

    Section "Device"
	Identifier  "NeoMagic (laptop/notebook)"
	Driver      "neomagic"
	Chipset     "neo2380"
	VideoRam    4096

With a little more tweaking I now have X running 1024x768 65536 colours. Here's my complete /etc/X11/XF86Config file.


All installations recognised the Ethernet interface (as an Intel Pro 100) without difficulty although Mandrake had a few problems on first reboot.

Only problem encountered so far is that the interface needs to be restarted following a suspend and resume.


I downloaded and installed the ALSA 0.5.9a driver and utilities.

Setup was straight forward. I added the module aliases to /etc/modules.conf by creating a new file /etc/modutils/sound with the following contents:

    # ALSA portion
    alias char-major-116 snd
    # OSS/Free portion
    alias char-major-14 soundcore

    # ALSA portion
    alias snd-card-0 snd-card-ymfpci
    # OSS/Free portion
    alias sound-slot-0 snd-card-0

and the running the utility update-modules. I believe this utility is a Debian special and on other systems you would edit the /etc/modules.conf file directly.

Since ALSA brings the sound system up in the muted state I added the following commands to the ALSA startup script /etc/rc2.d/S20alsa:

    /usr/bin/amixer -q set Master 20 unmute
    /usr/bin/amixer -q set PCM 20 unmute

Note the interface needs to be restarted following a suspend and resume.

Power Management

Two interfaces (Sound and Ethernet) need to be restarted whenever the system resumes following a suspend. I automated this process by adding a simple script to /etc/apm/event.d

Mail me

If you have any hints or tips, or need help with Linux on a Z600NE please Email me.

Made with Vi
Copyright © 2000-2001 R.J.Dunlop
$Id: index.html,v 1.6 2001/08/06 16:20:16 rjd Exp rjd $