Last week I received a shiny new Sony Vaio TZ11MN/N laptop, which I expect to last at least the same as my old iBook G3: about six years. This is totally feasible because I will use it for development, net surfing, some office tasks and a bit of gaming. The very first thing I did once the computer booted for first time was not accepting the Windows Vista license; instead I did put a Gentoo 2007.0 mini-install CD in the optical drive and fired up the installation proccess. After some tinkering those are my first impressions on how the thing performs.
Kernel support is quite good for most of the hardware, which runs pretty fast, with some rough edges. Apart from the following, the rest does the (desired) “just works” thing:
- On bootup, audio does not play through the speakers. If you plug a set of headphones and unplug them then sound comes alive. My guess is that this is some kind of weird behavior or something which does not get initialized in the Intel HD-Audio ALSA driver.
- Two hotkeys of the front panel do work: the “AV Mode” and “Eject” keys emit ACPI events. The other ones do not generate events at all, neither standard input layer events nor ACPI hotkey events. Regarding the hotkeys which can be activated using the “Fn” key, some of them generate standard events, and others are generating two ACPI events. Messy, but works.
- The integrated card reader does not work for me. At least the Memory Stick™ slot gets recognized by the kernel’s MTD layer, but I cannot give it a try because I have no cards of this kind. On the other hand, the SD card reader is not even recognized. Maybe this has something to do with it.
- Integrated webcam should work with the ry5u870 driver, but as the website is down I was not even able of downloading them. The generic Linux-UVC driver recognizes the gadget, but it isn’t able of properly driving the hardware (i.e. the driver loads, detects the camera but does not attach because of the device is yet unsupported by the driver).
- Suspend-to-RAM is giving me the usual nightmare of headaches. Apple PowerPC machines are horribly easier to set-up properly, I only needed to install and load the “pbbuttonsd” daemon in my old iBook to make it suspend and come back to life smoothly. ACPI needs to get this one better done. I tried the manual method, and it works but the video card is not wakened up; then I tried the tricks pointed out in the kernel documentation (fiddling with the “acpi_suspend” boot setting, using “vbetool”, disabling framebuffer, and so on), and now I trying the Gnome Power Manager, which seems to do the right thing… sometimes. But I do not want to depend upon something which in turn needs X11 running just to suspend the machine!
- Well, this is it less important, but the ipw3945 wireless card has proprietary firmware and a binary-only daemon which must be running or the card won’t work at all. Despite that, support is good and the card works nicely, and it even has a hardware switch to turn off the transmitter, which is nice to save battery.
The issues which annoy me are the one regarding the speakers and the suspend-to-RAM weirdness. I can live with the other ones, but I definitely need at least suspend-to-RAM working. Apart from the said things, the laptop is a very nice piece of hardware: it weights less than 1.2kg and even being a tiny thing with a 11-inch display it has a great LED-based TFT, which looks terrific and has very good contrast even at 50% of brightness. The DVD burner is quite fast, albeit being attached to the USB bus, and the keyboard has a good feel. The trackpad is correct, but I would like it better if it were a bit wider, to match the aspect ratio of the screen. Ah! And the battery lasts about 5-6 hours.