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Linux on a Sony PCG-Z505LE

A nice little Sony Vaio Z505LE just fell in my lap. (Thank you, Henk!) The system is a very nice little PIII 650/192MB RAM/12GB HD. The video card is a very capable ATI Radeon M1/8MB, it has FireWire, USB, a PCMCIA slot, a nice port replicator, an extra battery, and a PCMCIA/-based CD-ROM drive.

All told, it's a very nice laptop that I plan to use as my work laptop. (I'll do my best to leave the iBook as my home machine now, we will see.) The only downside is that it shipped with Windows ME. As I am a sysadmin by trade, and an OS tinkerer by hobby, that simply will not do. ;-) I've only had it for a day or two, but here are my experiences thus far trying to shoehorn Linux on to this thing:


It turns out that this laptop is a little "special." The CD-ROM is used through the PCMCIA slot. Apparently Sony does some kind of trickery to get the PCMCIA card recognized by older operating systems (read older Windows operating systems.) As a result, booting it to something other than Windows takes some effort. After a lot of research, I have found that the following options allow me to boot into RH9's installer:
linux noprobe pci=off nopcmcia ide2=0x180,0x386 text
This results in a text-mode install, but at least it works. Debian Woody only needed the ide2=0,180,0x386 option, but that's because it used an ancient 2.2 kernel. I tried booting it with a 2.4 kernel, it didn't work. So, for now anyways, I'm sticking with Red Hat. Anything's got to be better than the Windows ME that it shipped with!

I haven't had the laptop for long, but so far I've tried the following OSs:

Fedora Core 2Works perfectly. The laptop all of a sudden stopped booting from CD-ROM, so I had to do an upgrade with the .iso on the hard drive. It was actually easier in the end. Odd that Mdk didn't have these problems.Linux Mandrake 10.0Installs perfectly, no kernel options. (Maybe because of 2.6, hopefully FC2 will too!)Red Hat 9 -> FC1 upgradeBroke everything... UghRed Hat 9Worked, linux noprobe pci=off nopcmcia ide2=0x180,0x386 textWindows 2003 ServerWorked, No soundWindows ME restore CDFailed, Failed on bootup. I hate ME anyway, so I gave up on it.Debian Woody 3.0r1Worked, linux ide2=0x180,0x386
Upgraded to kernel-image-2.4.18, it died on reboot, I gave up for the moment. BeOS R5 ProFailed, Kernel panic as it booted up. (Likely due to the PCMCIA card again.)QNX 6.2 Failed, Just sat their as it booted up.Mepis/KnoppixFailed, Died probing the PCMCIA card. Might try again now that I know the RH trickWindows 98SEFailed, Failed to detect the CD-ROM drive (as it booted from the CD-ROM drive. ;-)
One could format a partition as FAT32 using Win2k+/Linux, copy the install files to the HD and I'm sure it would work.