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Debian 7 - Installation on Sony VAIO VGN-TX2XP

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dropcap-vaio-tx2xp

Sony Vaio VGN-TX2XP is a 7 years old, 1.25kg and 11.1'' screen notebook. When it has hit the market, it was a very high end laptop. It has been designed by Sony for durability as it is fully made of carbon, based on a multi-layered carbon fiber and carbon composite.

With an Intel Pentium M 1.2GHz CPU, 1 Gb RAM, an Intel 915GM chipset and a 16:9 1366×768 screen, it was originally delivered with Windows XP. Even if it was quite responsive in its childhood, it has become incredibly slugish years after years.

This laptop being very robust, very light weight and having a heavy duty battery, it was worth giving it a new life.

As it integrates some very standard components, I decided to install latest stable Debian 7.

This article explains the few steps needed to get a fully operational Vaio VGN-TX2XP running Debian Wheezy 7.0.

Thanks to Debian 7, you'll get a brand new Vaio VGN-TX2XP, giving back its full speed and reactivity under latest Gnome 3.4 environment.

1. Install Debian i386

Sony Vaio VGN-TX2XP is powered by a Pentium M 32bits CPU.

# cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor : 0
vendor_id : GenuineIntel
cpu family : 6
model : 13
model name : Intel(R) Pentium(R) M processor 1.20GHz
...
flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss tm pbe nx up bts est tm2
bogomips : 1197.03
clflush size : 64
cache_alignment : 64
address sizes : 32 bits physical, 32 bits virtual
power management:

It is missing the lm flag : we are in front of a real 32 bits CPU. We will have to install the Debian Wheezy i386 netinstall image.

Another important thing is that, thanks to Sony's BIOS, I've never succeeded to boot from a USB key. So installation will be done the good old fashioned way : with a CD-ROM.

These observations being made, the simplest way to install Debian Wheezy on this laptop is to :

  1. download and burn Debian Wheezy i386 netinstall image,
  2. connect your Vaio to your router with an ethernet cable (wifi will be setup later)
  3. boot from the CD-ROM & install Debian using whole disk partitionning.

2. Enable Wifi

VAIO VGN-TX2XP is using Intel wireless IPW2200 chipset.

This chipset needs a proprietary firmware which is not provided by standard Debian installation.

But this firmware is provided by firmware-ipw2x00 package from the non-free Debian repository.

You can enable both contrib and non-free repositories by adding them to the standard /etc/apt/sources.list file.

/etc/apt/sources.list

...

# wheezy
deb http://debian.ens-cachan.fr/ftp/debian/ stable main contrib non-free
deb-src http://debian.ens-cachan.fr/ftp/debian/ stable main contrib non-free

# wheezy security
deb http://security.debian.org/ stable/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org/ stable/updates main contrib non-free

Once these repositories declared, you are able to install the missing firmware.

# apt-get update
# apt-get upgrade
# apt-get install firmware-linux-nonfree firmware-ipw2x00

After next reboot your wifi adapter should be fully operational. You can drop your wired connection.

3. Enable Sound

By default, the Intel HDA audio chipset is fully recognised.

But, a general mute switch may be set, not allowing any sound to come out of the speakers.

You need alsamixer to disable this switch. This should be done once only.

# alsamixer

Select Intel HDA soundcard with F6.

debian-vaio-tx2xp-alsamixer

Make sure that auto-mute-mode is set to Disabled.

4. Dual Screen

Vaio VGN-TX2XP is equiped with a Intel i915 chipset (GMA950).

This chipset can handle 2D and 3D acceleration with a maximum display size of 2048 x 2048 pixels.

If desktop resolution is higher than that, acceleration will be automatically disabled. Your display will then become so slugish that it becomes unusable.

So, in case you want to connect a second monitor to the external VGA, you'll have to make sure that your total desktop resolution doesn't exceed 2048 x 2048.

As main display size is 1366 x 768, if you want to extend your desktop, your maximum external monitor resolution will depend on your monitors settings :

  • right / left : 682 x 2048
  • top / bottom : 2048 x 1280

So if you plan to add an external Full HD monitor, you won't have any choice : you have to configure it as an extended desktop on top or bottom of your main display.

With any other configuration, you'll loose acceleration and your system will be totally unusable.

5. Functionalities

Your Sony Vaio VGN-TX2XP is now ready for everyday use.

Here is a sum-up of the devices support under Debian Wheezy :

Device Status 
DVD drive working
Ethernet working
USB ports working
Wifi working
Bluetooth working
Speakers working
Microphone not tested
Firewire not tested
SD Card (including SDHC) working
Memory Stick not tested
External monitor limitations

 

Enjoy your Sony Vaio VGN-TX2XP now reborn thanks to the Open Source spirit !

Signature Technoblog

This article is published "as is", without any warranty that it will work for your specific need.
If you think this article needs some complement, or simply if you think it saved you lots of time & trouble,
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