Ubuntu on the Sony Vaio VPCYB2M1E/S

tl;dr: This post describes how well Ubuntu GNU/Linux works on the Sony Vaio VPCYB2M1E since there’s otherwise not much information on the web about the hardware support for this model on Linux.  In summary, so far it seems that this is a good choice for running Ubuntu on so long as you use the 32-bit version, but these are still early days.

At the moment, looking for a new computer in the netbook space which runs Linux well is a rather frustrating exercise.  This is chiefly because:

  • The market moves fast, and often there’s little information on the web about Linux support for the models that are actually available in the shops.
  • Frustratingly, it seems that some companies change the hardware in their machines without changing the model number.
  • What random people on Ubuntu forums consider to count as “working well” can include “won’t suspend to RAM” or “ethernet doesn’t work”.
  • Most reviews of netbooks by technology journalists are written with a totally unhelpful set of assumptions, such as the  following:
    • They assume that you wouldn’t use a netbook as your main machine.  This might be true if you use Windows, but I used Ubuntu on the Samsung NC-10 as my main development machine for a long time.  Sure, it’s not the same experience as working on a powerful desktop system with multiple monitors, but you can get Real Work done quite happily nonetheless.
    • You see netbooks which are around the £400 price point denounced as “not knowing what they’re trying to be”, as if there aren’t customers who want the portability and battery life of a £200 netbook, but would be happy to pay a bit more for improved performance and a slightly better screen.  Their frequent suggestion that you might as well buy some powerful but bulky laptop for this money is completely missing the point.

Anyway, if you’re looking for one of these slightly-better-than-a-netbook machines to run Ubuntu on, you might consider the VPCYB2M1E – the Sony Vaio Y series that is available in the UK at the moment (summer 2011).  We believe that the “/S” at the end of the model number just means that it’s the silver rather than pink version.  This is based around the AMD E-350, so we initially chose to use the 64-bit version of Natty – however, due to some freezes that don’t seem to occur with the 32-bit flavour, we reinstalled with the 32-bit version.  (See below for more details.)

The specifications of this laptop can be found on Sony’s website.  The weight (at 1.46kg) is slightly more than I’d like, but the 1366 x 768 screen is very nice.

First we checked by booting from a live USB stick that enough of the hardware seemed to work (wireless, sound, graphics) that we were willing to risk wiping all the existing partitions and claiming all the disk space for Ubuntu.  On the second laptop I installed Natty alongside Windows 7, which worked fine.  (I note that the installation of Natty is very slick now.)

At the end of this post, we’ve include the output of “cat /proc/cpuinfo” and “lspci -v”, for those who are interested in the details.  There’s a summary of what we’ve tested so far below.  However, first a description of the only big problem we’ve seen so far:

I/O Related Freezes

When using rsync to copy large files onto this system, we found that the interface would freeze to a greater or lesser extent.  This seemed to be reproducible with any command that wrote a lot of data to disk (e.g. even dd from /dev/zero) but was only present on 64-bit installations, not 32-bit.  This problem is described here:

https://answers.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+question/159329

… and linked to a bug that might be related.  However, since this didn’t seem to be a problem with the 32-bit installation, we didn’t pursue it further.  (However, it should be still reproducible with the 64-bit Live USB stick.)

Ethernet

Works fine out-of-the-box

Wireless

Works out-of-the-box

Power Management

Suspend-to-RAM

Works out-of-the-box.  (When suspended, the power light glows bright orange, though, which is somewhat annoying.)

Hibernate (Suspend-to-Disk)

Works out-of-the-box

Special Keys

Work out-of-the-box

Sound

Speakers

Work out-of-the-box – pretty loud.  I’ve found on one occasion that the sound stopped working after a while and I had to reboot, but I need to investigate that more.

Microphone

Works out-of-the-box, a bit noisy, but we haven’t tried to change any of the mixer settings yet.

Graphics

With the default driver, some of the desktop effects flickered a great deal, and the desktop background showed some flickering. Installing the closed source ATI drivers (via the “Additional Drivers” in the System Settings) seems to have fixed this.

External monitor

– Not tested yet.  In particular we need to check how large a resolution it can drive.

Card Readers

The SD card reader and the slot for Sony’s memory sticks both work fine.

HDMI output

– Not tested yet.  (No HDMI monitor available.)

Webcam

Works out-of-the-box

Touchpad

Works fine out-of-the-box.  Changing the scrolling behaviour (from dragging on the right hand side to two-fingered scrolling) can be easily done with the mouse properties.

Hardware Details

$ lspci -v
00:00.0 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] Pavilion DM1Z-3000 Host bridge
    Subsystem: Sony Corporation Device 9082
    Flags: bus master, 66MHz, medium devsel, latency 0

00:01.0 VGA compatible controller: ATI Technologies Inc Device 9802 (prog-if 00 [VGA controller])
    Subsystem: Sony Corporation Device 9082
    Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 44
    Memory at e0000000 (32-bit, prefetchable) [size=256M]
    I/O ports at 3000 [size=256]
    Memory at f0200000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=256K]
    Expansion ROM at <unassigned> [disabled]
    Capabilities: <access denied>
    Kernel driver in use: fglrx_pci
    Kernel modules: fglrx, radeon

00:01.1 Audio device: ATI Technologies Inc Device 1314
    Subsystem: Sony Corporation Device 9082
    Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 42
    Memory at f0244000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16K]
    Capabilities: <access denied>
    Kernel driver in use: HDA Intel
    Kernel modules: snd-hda-intel

00:04.0 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] Device 1512 (prog-if 00 [Normal decode])
    Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0
    Bus: primary=00, secondary=01, subordinate=01, sec-latency=0
    I/O behind bridge: 00002000-00002fff
    Memory behind bridge: f0100000-f01fffff
    Capabilities: <access denied>
    Kernel driver in use: pcieport
    Kernel modules: shpchp

00:06.0 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] Device 1514 (prog-if 00 [Normal decode])
    Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0
    Bus: primary=00, secondary=02, subordinate=02, sec-latency=0
    Memory behind bridge: f0000000-f00fffff
    Capabilities: <access denied>
    Kernel driver in use: pcieport
    Kernel modules: shpchp

00:11.0 SATA controller: ATI Technologies Inc SB7x0/SB8x0/SB9x0 SATA Controller [AHCI mode] (rev 40) (prog-if 01 [AHCI 1.0])
    Subsystem: Sony Corporation Device 9082
    Flags: bus master, 66MHz, medium devsel, latency 64, IRQ 19
    I/O ports at 3118 [size=8]
    I/O ports at 3124 [size=4]
    I/O ports at 3110 [size=8]
    I/O ports at 3120 [size=4]
    I/O ports at 3100 [size=16]
    Memory at f024c000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=1K]
    Capabilities: <access denied>
    Kernel driver in use: ahci
    Kernel modules: ahci

00:12.0 USB Controller: ATI Technologies Inc SB7x0/SB8x0/SB9x0 USB OHCI0 Controller (prog-if 10 [OHCI])
    Subsystem: Sony Corporation Device 9082
    Flags: bus master, 66MHz, medium devsel, latency 64, IRQ 18
    Memory at f024b000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=4K]
    Kernel driver in use: ohci_hcd

00:12.2 USB Controller: ATI Technologies Inc SB7x0/SB8x0/SB9x0 USB EHCI Controller (prog-if 20 [EHCI])
    Subsystem: Sony Corporation Device 9082
    Flags: bus master, 66MHz, medium devsel, latency 64, IRQ 17
    Memory at f024a000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=256]
    Capabilities: <access denied>
    Kernel driver in use: ehci_hcd

00:13.0 USB Controller: ATI Technologies Inc SB7x0/SB8x0/SB9x0 USB OHCI0 Controller (prog-if 10 [OHCI])
    Subsystem: Sony Corporation Device 9082
    Flags: bus master, 66MHz, medium devsel, latency 64, IRQ 18
    Memory at f0249000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=4K]
    Kernel driver in use: ohci_hcd

00:13.2 USB Controller: ATI Technologies Inc SB7x0/SB8x0/SB9x0 USB EHCI Controller (prog-if 20 [EHCI])
    Subsystem: Sony Corporation Device 9082
    Flags: bus master, 66MHz, medium devsel, latency 64, IRQ 17
    Memory at f0248000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=256]
    Capabilities: <access denied>
    Kernel driver in use: ehci_hcd

00:14.0 SMBus: ATI Technologies Inc SBx00 SMBus Controller (rev 42)
    Subsystem: Sony Corporation Device 9082
    Flags: 66MHz, medium devsel
    Kernel driver in use: piix4_smbus
    Kernel modules: sp5100_tco, i2c-piix4

00:14.2 Audio device: ATI Technologies Inc SBx00 Azalia (Intel HDA) (rev 40)
    Subsystem: Sony Corporation Device 9082
    Flags: bus master, slow devsel, latency 64, IRQ 16
    Memory at f0240000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16K]
    Capabilities: <access denied>
    Kernel driver in use: HDA Intel
    Kernel modules: snd-hda-intel

00:14.3 ISA bridge: ATI Technologies Inc SB7x0/SB8x0/SB9x0 LPC host controller (rev 40)
    Subsystem: Sony Corporation Device 9082
    Flags: bus master, 66MHz, medium devsel, latency 0

00:14.4 PCI bridge: ATI Technologies Inc SBx00 PCI to PCI Bridge (rev 40) (prog-if 01 [Subtractive decode])
    Flags: bus master, 66MHz, medium devsel, latency 64
    Bus: primary=00, secondary=03, subordinate=03, sec-latency=64

00:18.0 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] Family 12h/14h Processor Function 0 (rev 43)
    Flags: fast devsel

00:18.1 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] Family 12h/14h Processor Function 1
    Flags: fast devsel

00:18.2 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] Family 12h/14h Processor Function 2
    Flags: fast devsel

00:18.3 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] Family 12h/14h Processor Function 3
    Flags: fast devsel
    Capabilities: <access denied>
    Kernel driver in use: k10temp
    Kernel modules: k10temp

00:18.4 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] Family 12h/14h Processor Function 4
    Flags: fast devsel

00:18.5 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] Family 12h/14h Processor Function 6
    Flags: fast devsel

00:18.6 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] Family 12h/14h Processor Function 5
    Flags: fast devsel

00:18.7 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] Family 12h/14h Processor Function 7
    Flags: fast devsel

01:00.0 Ethernet controller: Atheros Communications AR8131 Gigabit Ethernet (rev c0)
    Subsystem: Sony Corporation Device 9082
    Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 43
    Memory at f0100000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=256K]
    I/O ports at 2000 [size=128]
    Capabilities: <access denied>
    Kernel driver in use: atl1c
    Kernel modules: atl1c

02:00.0 Network controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR9285 Wireless Network Adapter (PCI-Express) (rev 01)
    Subsystem: Foxconn International, Inc. Device e017
    Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 18
    Memory at f0000000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=64K]
    Capabilities: <access denied>
    Kernel driver in use: ath9k
    Kernel modules: ath9k

$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor       : 0
vendor_id       : AuthenticAMD
cpu family      : 20
model           : 1
model name      : AMD E-350 Processor
stepping        : 0
cpu MHz         : 800.000
cache size      : 512 KB
physical id     : 0
siblings        : 2
core id         : 0
cpu cores       : 2
apicid          : 0
initial apicid  : 0
fpu             : yes
fpu_exception   : yes
cpuid level     : 6
wp              : yes
flags           : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush mmx fxsr sse sse2 ht syscall nx mmxext fxsr_opt pdpe1gb rdtscp lm constant_tsc rep_good nopl nonstop_tsc extd_apicid aperfmperf pni monitor ssse3 cx16 popcnt lahf_lm cmp_legacy svm extapic cr8_legacy abm sse4a misalignsse 3dnowprefetch ibs skinit wdt arat npt lbrv svm_lock nrip_save pausefilter
bogomips        : 3192.53
TLB size        : 1024 4K pages
clflush size    : 64
cache_alignment : 64
address sizes   : 36 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management: ts ttp tm stc 100mhzsteps hwpstate

processor       : 1
vendor_id       : AuthenticAMD
cpu family      : 20
model           : 1
model name      : AMD E-350 Processor
stepping        : 0
cpu MHz         : 800.000
cache size      : 512 KB
physical id     : 0
siblings        : 2
core id         : 1
cpu cores       : 2
apicid          : 1
initial apicid  : 1
fpu             : yes
fpu_exception   : yes
cpuid level     : 6
wp              : yes
flags           : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush mmx fxsr sse sse2 ht syscall nx mmxext fxsr_opt pdpe1gb rdtscp lm constant_tsc rep_good nopl nonstop_tsc extd_apicid aperfmperf pni monitor ssse3 cx16 popcnt lahf_lm cmp_legacy svm extapic cr8_legacy abm sse4a misalignsse 3dnowprefetch ibs skinit wdt arat npt lbrv svm_lock nrip_save pausefilter
bogomips        : 3192.05
TLB size        : 1024 4K pages
clflush size    : 64
cache_alignment : 64
address sizes   : 36 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management: ts ttp tm stc 100mhzsteps hwpstate

14 thoughts on “Ubuntu on the Sony Vaio VPCYB2M1E/S”

  1. About the external monitor, it doesn’t work well (screen garbage) if you extend the desktop. It seems to work when on mirrored images.

    Tested with oneiric (development version)

  2. Hi Mark,
    I have tried to install Ubunto on my Sony VPCYB2M1E/S to no avail. Can you tel me the process you went to to install Ubuntu on your VPCYB2M1E/S ?
    Best,
    Will

    1. I prepared a Live USB stick from an existing Ubuntu system using System -> Administration -> Startup Disk Creator, and adjusted the BIOS settings so that the system would try booting off USB first.

  3. Thank you Mark. This also works for me.
    There was the error ‘not a com32r image’ after the PC booted of the USB stick. Typing ‘TAB’ then selecting ‘live install’ did the trick to start the UBUNTU install process.
    Best,
    Will

  4. Thanks for tests. I’ve bought the same netbook (but without “/s” version;) .

    I’m running on 11.10 (Kubuntu) and i’ve some problems with wifi.
    When i turn it off by the network manager – it can’t be turn on again:(
    Did you managed to solve the problem?

    My ifconfig then shows error:
    “$ sudo ifconfig wlan0 up
    SIOCSIFFLAGS: Operation not possible due to RF-kill”

    There a workaround:
    “sudo rfkill unblock 0
    sudo rfkill unblock 1
    sudo ifconfig wlan0 up”

    But doing it all the time – it’s a little bit annoying me:/
    Please let me know if you know any better solution for that problem.

    1. ok. I’m new to this netbook – I’ve found a switch for wifi.
      So probably no workaround needed.

  5. Hi Guys

    Can you check yours Load_Cycle_Count? (sudo smartctl -a /dev/sda |grep Load_Cycle_Count).

    I’ve just bought this netbook and after couple days of using it got:
    193 Load_Cycle_Count 0x0032 144 144 000 Old_age Always - 169034

    On my sony it’s been increasing every few seconds!!

    This command seems to stop it:
    sudo hdparm -B 254 /dev/sda

    but after the changes in ubuntu apci/apm i’m not sure where I should paste it to start with system or after hibernate/suspend.

    1. I don’t see the same problem – the Load_Cycle_Count after about 4 months is:


      193 Load_Cycle_Count 0x0032 171 171 000 Old_age Always - 87811

      … and it seems stable at the moment.

  6. I totally agree with Mark’s comments about the obtuse “technology experts” who write about these things.

    I get at least 50% of my work done on my Dell Mini 10v with the stock 1GB ram and an installed-by-me 60GB SSD running Ubuntu 11.10. My other computer is an i7-2600k running Win7 pro 64bit with 8GB ram, two 24″ monitors, a 120GB vertex2 ssd for a system drive, and a 2TB caviar black for a data drive. But I still like to use my netbook.

    I would like a slightly bigger screen and dual cores in a netbook, though.

    I looked at the Sony 11.6″ E-350/E-450 really hard, but I think I’ll pass. I’m spoiled by the silent operation of my netbook (the 10V is fanless).

    I see Lenovo will be selling an 11.6″ dual-core Cedar Trail that appears to be fanless (no fan vents visible, only a bottom vent like on my Dell). I hope Intel releases Linux drivers for Cedar Trail by the time this Lenovo (the S200) goes on sale, if it is indeed fanless.

  7. Hello i have a vaio y series VPCYB35AA netbook..can you please help me to change it’s desktop background
    .I tried my level best but….waiting for your valuable replay..thanks.

  8. Hi,Mark.

    Please, can you send me a copy for make a Live USB stick with Ubuntu as say :

    mark
    2011-10-25 at 10:28 am · Reply

    I prepared a Live USB stick from an existing Ubuntu system using System -> Administration -> Startup Disk Creator, and adjusted the BIOS settings so that the system would try booting off USB first.

    Thanks, in advance

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