TuxMobil - Linux on Laptops, PDAs and mobile Phones

Linux on Sony VAIO VGN-B100B


2005-03-07: Suspend to RAM configuration added.

2005-03-06: Added info about using an external display.

2005-02-22: Initial release.


Linux runs great on this laptop even though a few details (like DRI and the wireless network) are not perfect. You should not have any major problems installing and configuring your favorite Linux distribution on the laptop and this howto will highlight the potential problems that you might encounter.

I have installed a source-based Linux distribution Sorcerer on this laptop in case you are wondering.

Compatibility Matrix

Subsystem Compatibility Driver(s) Comments
Graphics Yes i830 (i915) Use the 855resolution tool for 1400x1050 resolution.
Sound Yes ALSA snd_intel8x0  
Ethernet Yes e100 or eepro100  
Wireless Yes   Proprietary firmware necessary.
CDRW/DVD Yes ide  
USB Yes uhci_hcd, ehci-hcd  
IEEE1394 Yes ohci1394, ieee1394  
Memory Stick Untested    
Modem Untested   Linuxant HSF modem drivers might work


  • Intel Pentium 4 M (Centrino) 1.8 GHz CPU. cat /proc/cpuinfo provides
    processor : 0
    vendor_id : GenuineIntel
    cpu family : 6
    model : 13
    model name : Intel(R) Pentium(R) M processor 1.80GHz
    stepping : 6
    cpu MHz : 1786.571
    cache size : 2048 KB
    fdiv_bug : no
    hlt_bug : no
    f00f_bug : no
    coma_bug : no
    fpu : yes
    fpu_exception : yes
    cpuid level : 2
    wp : yes
    flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr mce cx8 sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss tm pbe est tm2
    bogomips : 3547.13
  • 14.1" SXGA+ LCD TFT display (1400x1050)
  • Intel 855GM integrated graphics
  • RAM 1536 MB DDR 333 (512 MB built-in + 1 GB modul in a slot)
  • 60 GB hard disk
  • Internal CD/DVD RW Combo drive
  • Memory Stick slot
  • Integrated V.90 modem
  • Integrated Ethernet card 10/100 Mbps
  • IntelĀ® PRO/Wireless 2200BG (802.11b/g)
  • One PCMCIA I/II slot
  • Integrated Intel 81x sound chip
  • PS/2 touch pad
  • USB 2.0 and IEEE1394 (i-link) controllers

Output from the lspci (version 2.1.11) command:

00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corp. 82852/82855 GM/GME/PM/GMV Processor to I/O Controller (rev 02)
00:00.1 System peripheral: Intel Corp. 82852/82855 GM/GME/PM/GMV Processor to I/O Controller (rev 02)
00:00.3 System peripheral: Intel Corp. 82852/82855 GM/GME/PM/GMV Processor to I/O Controller (rev 02)
00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corp. 82852/855GM Integrated Graphics Device (rev 02)
00:02.1 Display controller: Intel Corp. 82852/855GM Integrated Graphics Device (rev 02)
00:1d.0 USB Controller: Intel Corp. 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) USB UHCI Controller #1 (rev 03)
00:1d.1 USB Controller: Intel Corp. 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) USB UHCI Controller #2 (rev 03)
00:1d.7 USB Controller: Intel Corp. 82801DB/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-M) USB2 EHCI Controller (rev 03)
00:1e.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corp. 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge (rev 83)
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corp. 82801DBM (ICH4-M) LPC Interface Bridge (rev 03)
00:1f.1 IDE interface: Intel Corp. 82801DBM (ICH4-M) IDE Controller (rev 03)
00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corp. 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) SMBus Controller (rev 03)
00:1f.5 Multimedia audio controller: Intel Corp. 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) AC'97 Audio Controller (rev 03)
00:1f.6 Modem: Intel Corp. 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) AC'97 Modem Controller (rev 03)
02:04.0 CardBus bridge: Texas Instruments PCI7420 CardBus Controller
02:04.2 FireWire (IEEE 1394): Texas Instruments PCI7x20 1394a-2000 OHCI Two-Port PHY/Link-Layer Controller
02:04.3 Unknown mass storage controller: Texas Instruments PCI7420/PCI7620 Dual Socket CardBus and Smart Card Cont. w/ 1394a-2000 OHCI Two-Port PHY/Link-Layer Cont. an
02:08.0 Ethernet controller: Intel Corp. 82801DB PRO/100 VE (MOB) Ethernet Controller (rev 83)
02:0b.0 Network controller: Intel Corp. PRO/Wireless 2200BG (rev 05)


This computer came with Windows XP preinstalled without any restore CD or DVD. You have to rely on the hidden partition that should be able to restore the system. Sony also provides utilities for creating a set of recovery CD but after my previous bad experience with Sony's recovery tools I have decided to save myself time and troubles and bought a recovery DVD.

Knowing that the recovery DVD was in mail, I went ahead and begun installing Linux (Windows were not even booted :). If you need to keep Windows on your laptop, consider dual-boot setup.

Linux installation is straightforward: Simply put in your installation CD and proceed. Sorcerer is a source distribution so I compiled everything from sources. For the curious, the compiler flags were set to

CFLAGS="-O2 -pipe -march=pentium4m"
CXXFLAGS="-O2 -pipe -march=pentium4m"


At the time of writing this howto, I used the 2.6.10 kernel and you can download the kernel configuration. The kernel was patched with version of the software suspend in order to enable suspending to disk.


X11 Configuration

XFree86 4.4.0 including DRI works with the i830 driver and the configuration is quite straightforward except obtaining the 1400x1050 screen resolution. The VBIOS of Intel 855GM graphics adapter does not know this mode, the closest available mode is 1280x1024 but text and lines look fuzzy and are uncomfortable to watch. A solution is to add the 1400x1050 mode to the VBIOS shortly after boot by employing the 855resolution utility.

During the boot process, one of the start-up scripts calls

855resolution 3c 1400 1050

which means that the resolution mode 3c is rewritten. You can list the available modes by 855resolution -l:

855resolution version 0.3, by Alain Poirier

Chipset: 855GM
VBIOS type: 2
VBIOS Version: 3360

Mode 30 : 640x480, 8 bits/pixel
Mode 32 : 800x600, 8 bits/pixel
Mode 34 : 1024x768, 8 bits/pixel
Mode 38 : 1280x1024, 8 bits/pixel
Mode 3a : 1600x1200, 8 bits/pixel
Mode 3c : 1400x1050, 8 bits/pixel
Mode 41 : 640x480, 16 bits/pixel
Mode 43 : 800x600, 16 bits/pixel
Mode 45 : 1024x768, 16 bits/pixel
Mode 49 : 1280x1024, 16 bits/pixel
Mode 4b : 1600x1200, 16 bits/pixel
Mode 4d : 1400x1050, 16 bits/pixel
Mode 50 : 640x480, 32 bits/pixel
Mode 52 : 800x600, 32 bits/pixel
Mode 54 : 1024x768, 32 bits/pixel
Mode 58 : 1280x1024, 32 bits/pixel
Mode 5a : 1600x1200, 32 bits/pixel
Mode 5c : 1400x1050, 32 bits/pixel

Normally, the 3c (4d and 5c) mode is a useless 1900 by something resolution.

You can download my XF86Config-4.

The only remaining problem with the X11 configuration is that the 3D graphics (DRI/DRM) stops working after resume from the software suspend. Any OpenGL application launched after resume freezes. I have been advised to test X.org because of newer drivers but haven't done that yet.

Screen Brightness and Fn Keys

If you want to use the Fn keys, make sure to compile the sonypi driver and put the following lines in /etc/modprobe.conf:

alias char-major-10-250 sonypi
options sonypi minor=250

This supposes that the sonypi device has minor node 250, which could be created by command

mknod /dev/sonypi c 10 250

In order to control the screen brightness, install the sony_acpi driver. If I set the screen brightness to the lowest level, the battery lasts one hour more.

For convenient control of the brightness and Fn keys, compile and install sonypid and sonypidd. The sonypidd perl script was originally written by Craig DeForest and is available here. I have adapted Craig's script for sony_acpi, software suspend and adjusted association with Fn keys. The sonypidd script allows controlling volume, screen brightness and software suspend (hibernation) using the Fn keys. The sonypidd script is started at system boot via sonypid.sh script and provides almost the same functionality of the Fn keys as the Sony utility in Windows XP. On my system, sonypid.sh is placed in /etc/init.d and symbolically linked from the /etc/rc[0-6].d directories.

External Display

In order to utilize an external display, the i855crt utility is needed. The i855crt version 0.4 worked fine with my data projector. To turn on the external display, you need to run as root

i855crt [swcursor] on 1400x1050@60

The last item on the command line selects a video mode for the external screen. Note that the resolutions on the LCD and external display have to match or the external screen will be garbled or flashing. The mode is one of the listed modes in /etc/i855crt.conf. However, the 1400x1050 mode is not available but default so I added the following lines into /etc/i855crt.conf:

# 1400x1050 @ 60Hz (VESA GTF) hsync: 65.5kHz
ModeLine "1400x1050@60" 122.0 1400 1488 1640 1880 1050 1052 1064 1082 +hsync +vsync

# 1400x1050 @ 75Hz (VESA GTF) hsync: 82.2kHz
ModeLine "1400x1050@75" 155.8 1400 1464 1784 1912 1050 1052 1064 1090 +hsync +vsync

If X11 was configured to use HW cursor, then i855crt on 1400x1050@60 provided a static cursor in the upper left corner of the projected image. If X11 was configured to use SW cursor, then i855crt swcursor on 1400x1050@60 did not display any cursor at all in the projected image which is not necessarily a bad thing. Although some patches for XFree86 are provided by the i855crt project attempting to solve the cursor issue, I have not tested them yet because the cursor seems to be only a minor nuisance.

Note that additional configuration/testing may be necessary for displaying overlays (video) on a external screen. I have not needed this feature yet so it has not been tested by me.


The integrated wireless card Intel Pro 2200BG works with the ipw2200 driver and a proprietary firmware. Follow instructions on the project's web site to install the driver and obtain the firmware.

Interestingly, the wireless adapter is not controlled via PCMCIA but rather like a PCI network adapter. Thus, you may need to modify your network initialization scripts.

If the wireless adapter cannot associate with an access point (AP) while using WEP, then you need to set the security mode to open, for example iwconfig eth1 enc "s:1234567890123" open. Once you load the ipw2200 module, you can try establishing a connection to an AP from a command line:

iwconfig $DEVICE mode "$MODE"
iwconfig $DEVICE enc "$KEY" open
iwconfig $DEVICE essid "$ESSID"

Set the DEVICE, MODE, KEY, and ESSID variables to match your environment. Command iwconfig $DEVICE will show whether the association with an AP was successful or not.

Suspend to RAM

Suspend to RAM sleep mode saves the system state to the computer memory and, thus, it is much faster then suspend to disk. On the other hand, beware that suspend to RAM is still very experimental on Linux.

A simple experiment have shown that my laptop can stay suspended in RAM for about 17 hours before the standard battery is depleted. This number was obtained by comparing the remaining battery capacity just before and after a suspend. The laptop was suspended for 108 minutes while battery capacity dropped from 48840 mWh (fully charged) down to 43750 mWh which gives the maximum suspend time as little more than 17 hours.

Edd Dumbill wrote a detailed description about Ubuntu Linux on Sony VAIO TR Series laptops which provided me with enough information to configure the suspend to RAM feature.

First, make sure that CONFIG_ACPI_SLEEP kernel option is on, then add the following line to the Device section of /etc/X11/XF86Config-4:

Option      "VBERestore"      "On"

Restart X11 for the change to be effective.

You can suspend to RAM using my script /usr/local/sbin/susp2ram, which should be self-explanatory:

# Suspend-to-RAM script for SONY VAIO VGN-B100B
# Written by Jan Merka (jm at highsphere.net)

# ------ Suspend --------

# Stop networking
/etc/init.d/networking.sh stop

# Unload network drivers
modprobe -r ipw2200
modprobe -r eepro100

# Suspend to RAM
echo mem > /sys/power/state

# ------ Resume ---------

# Reset the hard disk, otherwise it is not accessible
hdparm -w /dev/hda

# Configure the drive (32-bit IO, UDMA, unmaskirq)
hdparm -c3 -d1 -u1 /dev/hda

# Switch virtual terminals for the graphics adapter to wake up
chvt 1
chvt 7

# Start networking
/etc/init.d/networking.sh start

exit 0

The suspend script can be, for example, called by the acpid daemon when laptop's lid is closed. You could create ACPI event file /etc/acpi/events/lid:

event=button[ /]lid

The suspend to RAM is practically immediate while the resume takes about 40 seconds on my laptop. After resume, I need to re-plug the USB mouse in order to be recognized.

Caveat: Whenever Bluefish (a html editor) is started and the VBERestore option is set, X11 restarts and the following error messages appear:

[drm:i830_wait_ring] *ERROR* space: 131048 wanted 131064
[drm:i830_wait_ring] *ERROR* lockup

It is possible that this problem will occur for more applications.


Although the provided information is accurate to my knowledge, there are no guarantees whatsoever. Keep in mind that it is your laptop and your responsibility only.