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Linux on the Sony Vaio PCG-GRT816S Laptop


Intel Pentium 4 2.8 GHz (DTP), 1024 MB RAM DDR, Hitachi 80 GB HDD (IC25N080ATMR04), Pioneer DVD-RW/CD-RW Comba (DVR-K12D), 16,2" SXGA+ TFT, nVidia Geforce FX 5600 Go Graphics, WinModem Intel 537, SiS 900 100 MBit/s LAN, 3x SiS USB 2.0, Ricoh R5C552 IEEE 1394 (Firewire), SiS 645xx Mainboard, SiS Sound, MMC-Cardreader (USB), no IrDA, no VGA-OUT.


This system was installed with Debian GNU/Linux 3.0r2 plus current testing and kernel 2.6.1. The base installation itself was quite painless (Knoppix).


The Phoenix-BIOS is reachable with F2. Between HD, DVD-ROM, network and floppy as boot media can be chosen when hitting ESC early.


The chipset runs fine with kernel 2.6.1. If you are planning to use 3D acceleration, do not use agpgart, but see the section about XFree86 for that.


Yes, this is a combo drive, able to read and write DVD-R,-RW,CD-R,-RW. To burn DVDs you need cdrecord-proDVD or growisofs from the package dvd+rwtools.


APM is not supported, the kernel module does not find an APM BIOS.


Well, ACPI itself does not seem to generate any problems if a recent version is used. When installing from the Knoppix CD (2.4.22), "noapic" had to be used on the kernel command-line to boot. The self-grown kernel (2.6.1) does not use any APICs (Local, I/O) at all, so no problem here. The fan does not seem to be ACPI-controlled, since there is no entry in /proc/acpi/fan/ but it is always running and makes some noise.

Thermal Management

Hm, the thermal management as is, is _very_ bad. Compiling the kernel often stops with an internal compiler error, compressing large files fails due to "memory corruption" and the alikes. A test with memtest86 in real-mode revealed several thousand errors within an hour of running. A second identical machine did not show any errors after two minutes of checking, but froze when the memtest was tried to interrupt. And it also shows the same behavior as the first machine while in regular use.


cpufreqd runs fine with the module p4_clockmod but does not prevent the above from happening. Though perhaps configuring it in a way, that it always runs the CPU at a low frequency, would help.



The system returns immediately after issueing echo -n standby > /sys/power/state. There was no time to figure out exactly which drivers interfere (apart from USB).


The machine goes into sleep and resumes successfully. Good! Though you cannot use XFree86 after that, because the binary nvidia-driver does not take care of sleeping. As soon as you switch to the graphical desktop, your display will become useless.


Ok, in kernel 2.6, you have three alternatives, but neither of them seems to work without hassle on this system:
PMDISK stops somewhere when suspending with some kind of DMA error.
SWSUSP suspends fine, but when you try to resume, it complains about not being able to find the right signature on the swap partition.
SWSUSP2 seems to be totally b0rked for 2.6.x at the moment, 2.0rc3A does not suspend and blocks the other mechanisms; 2.0rc3C does not even compile.

Sound (ALSA)

Works like a charm with snd-intel8x0. There is no possibility to change the volume of the sound output by hardware, because the two volume keys do not work. They are perhaps somehow ACPI-controlled, but some kind of driver, as exists for ASUS and Toshiba laptops, would be needed.


The framebuffer support for vesafb is used due to severe problems with rivafb in the past (other kernels, other machines), especially in conjunction with the binary driver for XFree86 from NVidia. Currently it works only in XGA, the value for SXGA+ (vga=834), that has worked on other machines, does not work here.


XFree86 4.3.0 works with vesa, which is, of course, lacking support for 3D. It does _not_ work with nv. To get the nvidia driver to work with kernel 2.6, you have to get the patches from minion.de. Unfortunately, Debian currently supports only version 4496 of the driver, which does not seem to work (which could be due to a problem described in the next paragraph). You really should take version 5328.
So another show-stopper is agpgart. Either do not compile it for your kernel or do not load it in /etc/modules and use OPTION "NvAGP" "1" in your /etc/X11/XF86Config-4. Otherwise your screen will turn black and freeze the machine. Running glxgears gives around 2000 FPS which is not that bad for SXGA+ in truecolour.


Business as usual, take yenta_socket as driver and off you go.


USB is driven by ohci-hcd (1.x) and ehci-hcd (2.x). It is important to note, that uhci-hcd works, too! An external harddisk was successfully used with it, but it failed when plugging a mouse into the port.


Firewire seems to work ok with the usual modules: ieee1394, ohci1394, sbp2.


Nothing strange, take sis900.

Wireless LAN

A Netgear WG511T was tried to get running, too. Basically, it is supported by the madwifi driver. Though a ping was unsuccessful when trying the Ad-Hoc mode, whereas the setup process seemed to work. No other modes have been tested.


Astonishingly, this machine has no IrDA port.


Also there is no port for an external VGA display. There exists a port for an external TV, but Sony does not even ship a cable for connecting, at least not in the box that was shipped here.


The modem seems to work with driver version 2.9.4 from smartlink.


It is recognized as an USB storage-device, so it should be accessible as a SCSI harddisk. Due to lack of a memory card, the drive is yet untested.


OK, the only benefit this module seems to give is that you can control the screen brightness with spicctrl. The downside is, that you can reboot if you want to use your network again. There is no jog-dial in that laptop and the Fn-keys are not successfully initialised with it.

Guillaume Schmid wrote: I managed to make the sonypi interface work without disabling the network card. Here is how to do this: My kernel is 2.4.24. The network card SiS900 is compiled and linked directly in the kernel, same for the sonypi (It might not be an important point). the trick is to enable the following options in the General Setup section:

* Local APIC on uniprocessors.
* IO-APIC support on uniprocessors.

I cannot explain why those options are so important for the sonypi and the network drivers, but it works (well... for me:)."

Extra Keys

There are two extra keys at the top right which toggle the resolution between VGA/SXGA+ and toggle the brightness between dark/bright under Windows, not Linux. The volume keys do not work as all other Fn+X keys do not work. As mentioned before, some specific driver could help. Perhaps someone wants to look in the driver for ASUS.


  • Sebastian Henschel
  • Guillaume Schmid <guillaume_at_maunakeatech.com>

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© Werner Heuser 1997-2015 · http://tuxmobil.org/sony_grt816s.html · last change Mon Nov 10 2008