Installing Ubuntu Hardy on a Sony Vaio SZ6

This is a guide for installation of Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) on the Sony Vaio SZ650 notebook computer. Sony have produced many similar models with minor variations in hardware configuration or market location, which are given slightly different model numbers starting with VGN-SZ6. The recent (early 2008) SZ7 and slightly older SZ4 and SZ5 series have strong similarities with the SZ6 series so these instructions may be useful for those models as well. If you find anything that's missing here, or have any other comments, please email me.

Ubuntu Version

I use the 64-bit PC (AMD64) desktop version of Ubuntu Hardy LTS, downloadable here. The torrent is usually very quick and reliable so consider using the torrent file rather than downloading the ISO directly. Ubuntu ships as a single CDROM. Hardy is an LTS release, meaning that it will be supported until 2011.

Substantial improvements have been made to Ubuntu since Hardy's release, so if this is your first Ubuntu installation, consider using Jaunty instead and check out these updated instructions. (27-04-2009)

Why the 64-bit version? I want to be able to access the 4GB of RAM I have installed in my notebook. The factory install of Windows Vista is 32-bit and cannot access the last 1 GB of RAM, nor can the 32-bit XP downgrade.

Prepare the Ground

Before you start, assess why you want Ubuntu on your notebook. Do you want access to a Windows installation and should you therefore dual-boot or virtualise? Will you ever want to reinstall Vista? Are you insane? (read Catch-22 before answering that question).

Flippant comments aside, it's important to have a plan. I'd advise you to go through the Vaio recovery DVD creation process (before removing Vista) just in case. Also make sure you have the Windows drivers, which Sony make available from their FTP server.

There is a new way to install as though Ubuntu was a program running under Windows, which you can read about here. Also, the automatic dual-boot installation from the LiveCD is very kind to your existing Windows installation - as I was glad to discover while installing Ubuntu on my girlfriend's Vaio. She calls it "Ubunutu", strangely, in a Linus-esque Swedish-Finnish accent.

I usually install in STAMINA mode. Put the CDROM in the drive and if you need to, hit F2 and change the boot options to allow booting from CDROM. Boot into the live CD or just install from CD. The installation process is very straightforward and there's lots of support around if you search the Web for it (I'd start at Ubuntu Forums).

I'm a bit old-school, so I made my own partition table that looks like this:

Disk /dev/sda: 160.0 GB, 160041885696 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 19457 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000001

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System        Mount Point
/dev/sda1   *           1        1185     9518481    7  HPFS/NTFS     /xp
/dev/sda2            1186        2460    10241437+  83  Linux         / or /gutsy (dual boot...)
/dev/sda3            2461       18182   126286965   83  Linux         /home
/dev/sda4           18183       19457    10241437+   5  Extended
/dev/sda5           18183       18947     6144831   83  Linux         /hardy or /
/dev/sda6           18948       19457     4096543+  82  Linux swap    swap

Please note that I have repartitioned and completely reformatted the entire hard disk including the hidden Vaio recovery partition, which I don't need since I have recovery DVD's. You don't need so many partitions, particularly if you're doing a single boot install. I do highly recommend having a partition mounted at /home so that you can reinstall the system and not risk your personal files.

Graphics Cards

Graphics configuration has been a bit of a pain, but is now basically fixed. You can get full support of backlight and 3D, and the STAMINA-SPEED switch is supported (though requires a reboot).

To get 3D support on both the Intel and nVidia adapters on Hardy, you need to do a little hacking about, but not much. There are a couple of scripts out there but they are now obsolete because the organisation of the drivers has changed. A similar fate will probably befall these instructions; if you find that they don't work, please email me.

There are 2 important libraries for 3D acceleration: and The Intel driver uses (from libgl1-mesa-glx) and (from xserver-xorg-core) while the nVidia driver uses and (from nvidia-glx-new; version is variable). When each driver or 3D package is installed from the .deb, these files and links get clobbered; in particular, So the strategy is to create a protected version by changing its name and using a link that we switch at boot. This will likely break when updated drivers are installed.

I installed Hardy with the Intel adapter active; that meant that I had a file called in /usr/lib/modules/extensions/. This needs to be copied to

]$ sudo cp /usr/lib/xorg/modules/extensions/ /usr/lib/xorg/modules/extensions/

Also make a link called /usr/lib/ to /usr/lib/

]$ sudo ln -sf /usr/lib/ /usr/lib/

Then create a script which switches between the two 3D libraries by changing the targets of the symbolic links

]$ sudo gedit /etc/init.d/xorg_conf

Put this text into it:

# Set the appropriate xorg.conf and GL links for the speed/stamina video card switch

VIDEO=`/usr/bin/lspci |grep -c nVidia`

if [ "$VIDEO" = 1 ]; then
  cp -f /etc/X11/xorg.conf.speed /etc/X11/xorg.conf
  ln -sf /usr/lib/ /usr/lib/
  ln -sf /usr/lib/xorg/modules/extensions/ /usr/lib/xorg/modules/extensions/
  cp -f /etc/X11/xorg.conf.stamina /etc/X11/xorg.conf
  ln -sf /usr/lib/ /usr/lib/
  ln -sf /usr/lib/xorg/modules/extensions/ /usr/lib/xorg/modules/extensions/

Save the file and close gedit, then make the file executable and also run at boot:

]$ sudo chmod +x /etc/init.d/xorg_conf
]$ sudo ln -sf /etc/init.d/xorg_conf /etc/rc2.d/S12xorg_conf

You will also need two Xorg configuration files; the ones that work for me on Hardy right now (October 2008; they are bound to change) are xorg.conf.speed and xorg.conf.stamina. Save these files to your /etc/X11/ directory.

Finally, you have to make sure that you've got all the right drivers installed. If you are currently using the nVidia driver and SPEED mode, I'd advise uninstalling nvidia-glx-new, rebooting into STAMINA mode and starting fresh. Alternatively, you can install and uninstall nvidia-glx-new and libgl1-mesa-glx until you've got the files and links set up just right.

]$ sudo apt-get install libgl1-mesa-glx xserver-xorg-video-intel
]$ sudo apt-get install nvida-glx-new


The Vaio SZ6 has a very white, bright and light (as in weight) LED screen, which uses up quite a bit of power and is hard on the eyes after a while. In STAMINA mode, you can alter the backlight by installing xbacklight.

]$ sudo apt-get install xbacklight

Until this bug is fixed, you have to run the following at the beginning of your session:

]$ xrandr --output LVDS --set BACKLIGHT_CONTROL native

Then to alter the backlight:

]$ xbacklight -set n

Where 0<= n <=100.

Backlight support for Vaios with nVidia 8 series graphics (e.g. SPEED mode on Vaio SZ6 and SZ7) is now incorporated in nvclock and there will be a nice integrated solution soon. In the meantime, you'll need to download and compile nvclock. Check out Launchpad bug 95444 for bleeding-edge information.

]$ sudo apt-get install cvs
]$ cvs login
]$ cvs -z3 co -P nvclock
]$ cd nvclock
]$ ./
]$ ./configure
]$ make
]$ sudo make install

To get the Fn keys (Fn+F5, Fn+F6) working, you have to modify /etc/acpi/ as described here, but with an extra nvclock line for SPEED mode.

if [ "x$1" = "xdown" ]; then
   xbacklight -time 100 -steps 10 -dec 10 2>/tmp/sonybright.log
   HOME=/root nvclock -S -5
elif [ "x$1" = "xup" ]; then
   xbacklight -time 100 -steps 10 -inc 10 2>/tmp/sonybright.log
   HOME=/root nvclock -S +5
   echo >&2 Unknown argument $1

On each reboot, restart acpid and if in STAMINA mode, reset the xrandr settings.

]$ sudo /etc/init.d/acpid restart
]$ xrandr --output LVDS --set BACKLIGHT_CONTROL native   


Ubuntu Hardy contains ALSA that supports the sound card, but you have to do a bit of configuring yourself. Open the ALSA config file:

]$ sudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base

Add these lines to the end:

alias snd-card-0 snd-hda-intel
options snd-card-0 index=0
options snd-hda-intel model=vaio

Then restart ALSA

]$ sudo /etc/init.d/alsa-utils restart

Then in the volume control app (double click the wee speaker icon by the clock), Edit->Preferences and check all the check boxes.


Support for the webcam is supplied by the kernel module r5u870. Download the source here. Extract the source, make and install the module:

]$ tar -zxvf r5u870-0.11.2.tar.gz
]$ cd r5u870-0.11.2
]$ make
]$ sudo make install

r5u870 conflicts with uvcvideo so the latter must be blacklisted:

]$ sudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist

Add to the end of the file:

blacklist uvcvideo

You also have to tell HAL about the r5u870 driver; download this file and copy it then restart HAL:

]$ sudo cp 10-ricoh-r5u870-cam.fdi /etc/hal/fdi/information/20thirdparty/
]$ sudo /etc/init.d/hal restart

You can test that you've properly installed r5u870 by running this:

]$ gst-launch-0.10 v4l2src ! ffmpegcolorspace ! ximagesink

Keep an eye on this bug and this bug for updates to this issue.

Bluetooth LED

I've got no bluetooth peripherals so no need for bluetooth. It just uses power and gives people a way to poke at your computer. If you turn bluetooth off by disabling the modules (e.g. with powertop), the LED stays on, and the device stays powered. To turn off the device you have to enable the superuser (root) account by going to System->Administration->Users and Groups then:

]$ su
]$ echo "0" > /sys/devices/platform/sony-laptop/bluetoothpower

And voila, the LED goes out and power supply to bluetooth ceases.


Full support for the WiFi LED is on its way to the kernel; in the meantime you can get it to work by doing this:

]$ sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-hardy-generic

If you're having trouble associating with a WPA-Enterprise access point, try this (it may take a few goes):

]$ sudo rmmod iwl4965; sudo modprobe iwl4965

Battery and Power Management

The best way to extend battery life is to install powertop and follow the on-screen instructions:

]$ sudo apt-get install powertop
]$ sudo powertop

The battery-saving feature of the Windows install makes the battery stop charging at 50%, 80% or 100%; the only way to get to 100% charge is to turn off the battery-saving feature in Windows (in the Vaio control panel). See this bug report.

Also, check out Less Watts.

Suspend to RAM

I've had a few problems with suspend-to-RAM on both the Intel and nVidia adapters. The current solution for suspend-to-RAM on the Intel 965 adapter is to edit a few files.

]$ sudo gedit /etc/default/acpi-support

Edit the MODULES line so that it looks like this:

MODULES="hci_usb iwl4965"

Save the file, close gedit and restart.

Hard disk

Hard disk cycling makes a clicking sound every few seconds to minutes, which is the head parking and unparking. This will eventually wear out your disk, so follow these instructions to get your disk idling correctly. More information can be found on this huge bug report.

These disk-related devices are unsupported:

Fingerprint sensor

Support for the fingerprint sensor is coming on rapidly. If you don't mind compiling your own drivers, try these instructions, and keep up to date with LP 163156.

External Resources

These were useful sources of information:

Device List

This is here for completeness: note the output of lspci is different if you are in SPEED or STAMINA mode.

]$ lspci
00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Mobile PM965/GM965/GL960 Memory Controller Hub (rev 0c)

SPEED mode:
00:01.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Mobile PM965/GM965/GL960 PCI Express Root Port (rev 0c)

00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation Mobile GM965/GL960 Integrated Graphics Controller (rev 0c)
00:02.1 Display controller: Intel Corporation Mobile GM965/GL960 Integrated Graphics Controller (rev 0c)

00:1a.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #4 (rev 03)
00:1a.1 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #5 (rev 03)
00:1a.7 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB2 EHCI Controller #2 (rev 03)
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) HD Audio Controller (rev 03)
00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) PCI Express Port 1 (rev 03)
00:1c.1 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) PCI Express Port 2 (rev 03)
00:1c.2 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) PCI Express Port 3 (rev 03)
00:1c.3 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) PCI Express Port 4 (rev 03)
00:1d.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #1 (rev 03)
00:1d.1 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #2 (rev 03)
00:1d.2 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB UHCI Controller #3 (rev 03)
00:1d.7 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) USB2 EHCI Controller #1 (rev 03)
00:1e.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge (rev f3)
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation 82801HEM (ICH8M) LPC Interface Controller (rev 03)
00:1f.1 IDE interface: Intel Corporation 82801HBM/HEM (ICH8M/ICH8M-E) IDE Controller (rev 03)
00:1f.2 SATA controller: Intel Corporation 82801HBM/HEM (ICH8M/ICH8M-E) SATA AHCI Controller (rev 03)
00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) SMBus Controller (rev 03)

SPEED mode:
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation GeForce 8400M GS (rev a1)

06:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 4965 AG or AGN Network Connection (rev 61)
07:00.0 Ethernet controller: Marvell Technology Group Ltd. 88E8055 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 12)
09:04.0 CardBus bridge: Texas Instruments PCIxx12 Cardbus Controller
09:04.1 FireWire (IEEE 1394): Texas Instruments PCIxx12 OHCI Compliant IEEE 1394 Host Controller
09:04.2 Mass storage controller: Texas Instruments 5-in-1 Multimedia Card Reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO/xD)

]$ lsusb
Bus 007 Device 004: ID 054c:0281 Sony Corp. <- Vaio memory card adapter
Bus 007 Device 001: ID 0000:0000  
Bus 006 Device 003: ID 05ca:183a Ricoh Co., Ltd  <- webcam 
Bus 006 Device 001: ID 0000:0000  
Bus 005 Device 003: ID 044e:300d Alps Electric Co., Ltd <- bluetooth
Bus 005 Device 001: ID 0000:0000  
Bus 002 Device 001: ID 0000:0000  
Bus 004 Device 001: ID 0000:0000  
Bus 003 Device 002: ID 046d:c018 Logitech, Inc. <- an external USB mouse
Bus 003 Device 001: ID 0000:0000  
Bus 001 Device 007: ID 147e:2016  <- UPEK touchstrip fingerprint scanner
Bus 001 Device 001: ID 0000:0000's International Visitors

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This file last modified 0803hrs 28 July 2011 Michael Doube 2004-2015 :: Designed to be interoperable and standards-compliant. Looks best with Mozilla Firefox.