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Installing Fedora Core 5 on Sony Vaio VGN-FJ170/B (v1.0)
Last modified: Friday November 9, 2012

This page is pretty much complete now that FC6 is out. This guide is based on my Installing Fedora Core 4 guide. There is also a Fedora Core 6 version of this guide. If you have an interest in helping to get Linux running on this laptop I encourage you to join the mailing list I've set up and help out.

Having owned several laptops I now realize there are only a couple things that are truly important. Size (small but not too small) and a great screen. Based on those two needs I chose the Sony Vaio VGN-FJ170/B (decoding the model number: FJ series with 1.7Ghz processor in Black)

Please also refer to my Fedora Core 5 Tips & Tricks.

Hardware Summary

For those interested here is the full lspci output:

Fedora Core 5 Compatibility

Please note I've also created a very low volume mailing list to discuss Linux on Sony Vaio FJ series notebooks. You can sign up HERE


Preparing for the install

The system comes preconfigured with a hidden partition #1 that contains system recovery data. I don't recommend touching that. The main NTFS partition is #2 which I resized using the built-in tools in the Knoppix distribution. It was tricky but worked fine. I've used Partition Magic in the past which I find is more work because you need to boot into XP and install the software for it to work.

I'm told that Gparted available at http://gparted.sourceforge.net/ is a very easy way to resize an NTFS partition. It has a downloadable live CD which is only 22.5MB and has an easy to use interface for re-sizing partitions. I have no experience with it but other people reported it works great.

Please note this is not an easy laptop to get going with Linux and the steps outlined below are not intended for Linux novices.


Install Fedora Core 5

You should be able to install Fedora normally on this laptop. Just make sure you choose the a configuration with the development environment. When prompted for monitor type choose "Generic Laptop Display Panel 1280x800". Otherwise install it as you like. Unlike in Fedora Core 4 the display works just fine. Just set the resolution to 1280x800 and it works.

It probably wouldn't hurt to do a yum -y update as soon as you get everything installed.


Configuring the audio

In my case the audio was muted by default. The easiest way is to start the audio applet in Gnome and bring up the Preferences. In my case the device was wrong, it was using the OSS driver which is not correct. Choose the HDA Intel (Alsa Mixer) and the device to track and control should be Front for the master volume. Once that's set Open Volume Control and unmute the Front and PCM sliders. If they don't show up in the master volume control hit Edit -> Preferences and choose all the tracks to be visible in the controller.

Some issues remain with audio. Setting the maximum volume causes static and distorted audio. The OSS driver for some reason stutters when playing medio. Using the older OSS driver doesn't have this problem.


Controlling screen brightness

The main reason I chose a Sony notebook was for the incredibly bright screen. No other manufacturer was as good at the time I bought it (Dec 2005). However, once the brightness was set in Windows XP it was not possible to adjust it in Linux. Unlike other laptops that implement screen brightness in hardware Sony for some idiotic reason chose to do it with a driver. That also means that it's probably not going to work under Windows Vista when/if that ever gets released.

It is possible to get it to work but a little tricky. First, you'll want Stelian Pop's sony_acpi driver which I modified slightly as well as the fsfn-1.1-take2.tar.gz. Put the files in /usr/src  and extract and compile them. You'll obviously also need kernel sources and a compiler in case you didn't install them previously.

# yum -y install kernel-devel gcc
# gtar xzvf sony_acpi-0.3.tar.gz
# cd sony_acpi-0.3
# make install
# modprobe sony_acpi
To get the sony_acpi  driver to load automatically I added the following line to /etc/rc.d/rc.local . I know it's ugly and if you have a better way in Fedora please let me know! Please note that you will also have to re-install the driver when you upgrade to a newer kernel.
	modprobe sony_acpi
If that worked you should have a directory /proc/acpi/sony  and it will contain three files. You can manually adjust the brightness by echoing numbers between 1 and 8 to the brightness file.

Now you need to get fsfn  to handle the special Fn keys and it will then control the audio volume and screen brightness for you and will display the new value in an on screen display. You'll need the xosd  and alsa  libraries installed for this to work properly.

# yum -y install xosd xosd-devel alsa-lib-devel
# gtar xzvf fsfn-1.1-take2.tar.gz
# cd fsfn-1.1
# ./configure
# make install
# cp fedora/fsfn /etc/init.d
Before you start you'll probably want to read the fsfn(5)  man page and create the configuration file /etc/fsfn.conf  containing at least the following line to enable a special hack necessary for the VAIO FJ series of notebooks:
BRT_HACK_FJS=1
ALSA_NAME=Headphone
Setting the ALSA_NAME is a hack to make the volume work. For some reason with FC5 the main volume controller is named Headphone instead of Front so until we find a solution to the naming problem this workaround will allow the Fn buttons to control the main volume.

To get this all working you'll need to start the fsfn  service at boot time (after the driver above is loaded). Rather than having it start automatically I added it to my startup file /etc/rc.d/rc.local :

	service fsfn start
And finally you will need the client that handles the on screen display to start when you log in. Go to Desktop -> Preferences -> No Preferences -> Sessions. Once there go to Startup Programs and add the command fsfn -o  to the list of startup programs.

Once you do all that you should be able to adjust the volume and screen brightness with the special Fn keys just like in XP.


Configuring Wifi

This laptop is based on the Centrino chipset which is well supported by Linux. However, some distributions like Fedora do not include the necessary firmware for the Wifi interface so you'll have to download it. The easiest way is to download it from the FreshRPMs repository:
# rpm -ihv http://ayo.freshrpms.net/fedora/linux/4/i386/RPMS.freshrpms/freshrpms-release-1.1-1.fc.noarch.rpm
# yum -y install ipw2200-firmware
# modprobe ipw2200
That will load the driver which will now have access to the firmware so the interface will come up automatically from now on. You can now set up your wireless interface as you would normally.

Other Odds and Ends

Nothing yet.

Glitches/Problems

There are a few things that don't work (yet):

If you have any leads on getting any more features working pleae drop me a line.


Other Useful Resources

I used the following websites describing getting this or similar laptops to work with various versions of Linux in the process of getting this laptop to run Fedora Core 3. None of them had all the answers in one place however.
Linux on the VAIO TR3 - This site helped me figure out some of the goofier things about Sony laptops. Why do some companies feel the urge to re-invent things that have already been invented better by others?

Sony Vaio FS series FN keys - This site was a great source of information. It was for Gentoo/Ubuntu but the tips work just as well in Fedora.

HOWTO: Adjust brightness on Sony Vaio - Another Ubuntu related page for the FS series but many of the tips work on the FJ as well. A lot of what is in this guide came from this site.

Sony Vaio VGN FJ 1S Debian Installation - This is a great guide by blicero on getting Debian Unstable working on this laptop. He goes into some more detail on things such as getting getting external VGA to work as well as references to drivers in the works to support the MemoryStick port on the front.

This comments section below is only for comments, suggestions or corrections for this guide only. Please do not use this for general Fedora/Linux support. If you do require support for something other than what's described here I recommend using Fedora Forums.

Comments From People Like You!
Fedora Core 5 on Sony Vaio FJ
Add a Comment add a comment
Will
24-Jan-2007 16:03
I wrote a command-line tool to control screen brightness by echoing values to /proc/acpi/sony/brightness  hope someone ends up getting use out of it

http://fileforum.betanews.com/detail/Vaio_Brightness_Control/1168977694/1

-Will
Anonymous
17-Jul-2006 03:26
Anybody succeed working with the integrated motion eye camera?
G
Alexlan Languren
15-Jul-2006 09:31
Thank you for the valuable information. With minor adjustments I get the  Bright & volume contros work in  my VAIO FJ290P in FC5
John
10-May-2006 01:46
stephen, it should be "sonypi" not "sponypi". :)
stephen
26-Apr-2006 09:51
VGN S2VP: Suspend worked out of the box and brightness controls are easily installed by modprobing the sponypi module and installing spicctrl (available from the fc5 extras repo).
Pablo Perez
22-Apr-2006 17:41
I installed FC5 on my Sony Vaio FS790 (with an nvidia card) and the suspend and hibernate work out of the box, with no work at all (just closing the lid). It takes like 30 seconds or so to get alive again when I suspend, and it boots to the old state when I hibernate without problems. The only problem that I have is that when I am running on AC power and I suddenly unplug the cable, the laptop does what I told it to do when running on battery and closing the lid (so it suspends, which is not desirable).


Please E-mail Me with any questions, comments or corrections.

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