Linux on a Sony VAIO PCG-GRT170

Last modified 7/17/03

I purchased a Sony PCG-GRT170, because it had a beautiful screen and the FX 5600 Go graphics card.  We are investigating using NVidia hardware for our movie graphics rendering work, and the FX 5600 supports the (current) latest vertex and pixel shaders.

Another nice thing is that the VAIO came with a D partition that was huge and empty, so I didn't have to reformat the drive to make a linux partition.  This is always a pain, and one less thing to do.

I installed RedHat 9.0, removed the windows D partition, and used that space for a Linux '/' and a swap partition.  I was careful (the second time) to use the 1st block of the boot partition to store the boot loader, and the machine dual booted Windows XP and Linux with no problem (that same second time.)  The VAIO doesn't come with a floppy installed, I used an Iomega external USB floppy to make the boot disk.  It will boot from that disk, although we use the GRUB boot loader instead of the floppy.  Installation was almost completely painless and intuitive.

So far, I cannot get the screen to work at any better than 1280x960 resolution.  The screen's native resolution is 1400x1050, but try as I might I can't get that to work.  I've tried multiple modelines, so far to no avail.  At that lower resolution, the screen looks pretty bad, text is fuzzy and off-color.  Except for that, the machine works well.  Unfortunately, this is a really big deal.

The machine, as installed out-of-the-box, doesn't seem to work with power management, and in particular it doesn't know about the battery status.  I'm somewhat concerned that there may be an issue with temperature sensing and fan speed; some VAIO/Linux pages warned about that.  I suppose I'll have to build a custom kernel to get those features installed and working.

Thad Beier
Hammerhead Productions