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Why I don't (usually) use Windows

December 11th, 2pm

So in late November, I cracked and bought a Vaio P11Z/B as a travel typing machine. (Half price, two year extended warranty thrown in — they were discontinuing it. What can I say?)

It's a nice piece of hardware, except for the software. It came running Vista, and lumbered with Sony's usual crapware. There are also fun issues surrounding the GMA500 graphics chipset and Linux — hopefully they'll be fixed in 2010, but in the meantime, I'm being cautious and not switching OSs on the machine immediately. Vista is a horrible parody of a real operating system, but it also came with a voucher for an upgrade to Windows 7 — and the upgrade path allows you to keep your apps and data in situ (no reformatting needed). So for the past couple of weeks I tweaked the machine, tapped my fingers while Vista took forever to do anything, and waited for the parcel to arrive.

Well, it came yesterday.

Step 1: there's a 9Gb Vista OS restore partition on the Vaio. It'd be a good idea to back it up to DVD, wouldn't it, and claw back the 20% of my available disk space it's using, wouldn't it? (I could even install Linux in that partition.) Cue collision #1 with Sony's crapware. They provide a utility for burning backup system restore DVDs. It doesn't work: I tried with three different external DVD burners and four different sets of disks (including +RW, -R, and +R). The drives work — I burned a data DVD with one of 'em — but the Sony utility horks and dies every time. (Oh, and it's such a piece of shit that it runs in a non-resizable window and if you rescale the UI to a sensible number of pixels per inch the buttons you need to click are clipped. So you can only run it with the screen set to 96dpi ... on a machine that has a physical resolution of 200dpi. Cue bleeding from the eyeballs.)

Step 2: So I proceed to do the Windows 7 upgprade without a lifebelt. Oka-a-a-y ...

Step 3: Follow the instructions in Sony's leaflet and de-install a bunch of Sony crapware that derails the Windows 7 upgrade. Reboot three times in the process (because some of the installers won't give you an option to reboot later).

Step 4: Start the upgrade. Watch as Win 7 checks ... then quits, warning you to remove three other pieces of crapware and ensure that there are at least 16Gb of free space on the hard disk. Okay, some of the crapware was my fault (iTunes, Skype) ... but what kind of OS needs 16Gb of free space to install? Scratch head, jump through hoops, go back to Step 4.

Step 5. Over a period of six hours, Windows 7 installs itself. Then it reboots. Bombs to a DOS prompt: "one of the filesystems needs to be checked. Press any key to avoid running chkdsk. You have five seconds ..."

Not being stupid, I leave chkdsk to do its stuff. It has now been running for (checks clock) around 16 hours. It's spitting out lots of lines of the form "Inserting an index entry with Id 999999 into index $SII of file 9". Well okay, a quick google reveals that it does this if the filesystem is set up for disk indexing and it thinks the index is corrupt. Interrupting it would be Bad, so I don't do that. Such a shame that I switched indexing off on Drive C: for performance reasons (read: 1.33GHz Atom processor wheezing and groaning under the weight of Vista).

Ellapsed wall-clock time on Windows 7 upgrade so far: 22 hours.

Still to do: finish chkdsk run, reboot into Win7, enter activation key, switch to Sony's driver disk, install drivers (rebooting three times), deinstall any unwanted Sony bloatware (rebooting to taste), reinstall iTunes and Skype.

(Brief discursion: the only reason it isn't running ubuntu is that my initial attempt to get the Intel GMA500 graphics accelerator working (on Netbook Remix 9.10 via Wubi) ended in tears before bed-time, so I was waiting until I've got Win7 up and running before nuking the Vista restore partition and making another serious run at Ubuntu. Reason for upgrading to Win7 first: because Sony's borked Win7 upgrade installer insists on the Vista restore partition being occupied by, er, Vista, or it refuses to run.)

Worth noting is the time to upgrade from OS/X 10.5 (Leopard) to OS/X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) on a supported Mac: 40 minutes on average — I did it to four Macs in an afternoon. (And before the Windows-users leap in to say "but that's only a service patch", no it isn't. New BSD kernel, new thread despatcher, large lump of new subsystems, Rosetta separated out as a separate installable module, and so on. It's as much a new OS relative to OS X 10.5 as Windows 7 is relative to Vista.)

UPDATE: Elapsed time so far: 28 hours. chkdsk is still hamsterizing the flywheel. It's now added around 375,000 index entries ... assuming it's rebuilding an index for the entire FS, with one record per file, it's got another 500,000 to go. Groan. The only time I've ever seen Linux or OS/X's filesystem checker fsck pull a stunt like this, it was trying to recover a RAID-based filesystem that had been mangled by massive memory corruption ...

FLASH UPDATE: Just as I finished typing the above update, it rolled over to say "Repairing the security file record segment" instead.

Gosh, the excitement is killing me.


30 hours and counting on the Win 7 install.

chkdsk.exe has finished hamsterizing the flywheel inserting index entries in the security file record segment, and is now hammering the hard disk while maintaining NSA-grade close-lipped silence.

I think it has simply run out of excuses and is staying shtumm to avoid self-incrimination.

(I'm used to filesystem checking algorithms on real operating systems that run in seconds to minutes on devices an order of magnitude larger. This is a sick joke, right?)

December 12th, 2pm

chkdsk has, for a miracle, finished squirrelizing the cat tray or whatever it was doing for nearly two days. Got downstairs this lunchtime to find the Vaio had rebooted and was waiting patiently for a registration key. It is running Windows 7, and for a miracle had cleaned up an extra 11Gb of disk space — I started the install with 16Gb free, and it's now showing 27 free.

Now to mess with the driver disk/BIOS update/other miscellaneous crap.


Fifty hours and yes, I now have a Vaio P running Windows 7, fully patched and updated and mercifully free of re-installed Sony bloatware. The actual Vista to Windows 7 upgrade took around 12 hours of wall-clock time, of which about 2-3 hours was preparation (uninstalling incompatible apps and drivers), 7 hours was execution, and the rest cleanup and post-install. The remaining 38 hours was disk checking.

The Vaio is still chittering away re-indexing the filesystem, but by tomorrow it should be done. As it's no slower — while indexing — than Vista was while twiddling its thumbes, I shall call this a win, and declare the upgrade complete at 50 hours ellapsed, wall clock time. I might have been able to squeeze another six hours out of that if I hadn't gone to bed while chkdsk was embalming the corpse of Vista, but what the hell.

For the past three days I've been on the road, and I have to say that a Vaio P, with Windows 7, makes a usable — if very sluggish — platform for email and web work. I wouldn't want to write a book on it (the screen's about 20 centimetres wide and 10 centimetres high) but for web and mail it's more than adequate ... if the software didn't let it down. It's like dropping a two and a half ton truck body on a Ford Fiesta's mechanicals: nothing good will come of this. So the search for a lightweight alternative operating system is on.

Next week ... I'm going to make a bootable external hard drive with a restorable image of Windows 7. Then I'm going to try and squeeze Ubuntu into the Vista restore partition and get the GMA500 drivers working. Spraying Ubuntu over an existing partition should only take an hour or so (call it an hour for the install, then two hours to slurp up the updates over my ADSL line), but it's anybody's guess how long the other job will take. At least I won't be bored ...

If Ubuntu and the GMA500 prove to be fatally allergic to one another, there's always Mandriva (who claim to include a GMA500 driver in the proprietary stuff that comes with their for-money batteries-included version).

Microsoft: providing pointless hamster-wheel exercises for gearheads since 1976.




Next time, backup your data, wipe, and reinstall. Microsoft upgrade processes have always sucked.

You can in fact do the same thing on an ext[234] filesystem with fsck; if you create the filesystem with dir_index manually disabled, then enable it, and then run e2fsck, it'll do roughly the same process. It's about ten times faster though, and the only people who would do this are those who are doing rolling upgrades from systems installed in the 1990s *and* who manually enable it.

GMA500 on Ubuntu, point and grunt approach. It's a mess, and is unlikely to work any better on other platforms; Intel have not only dropped the ball on this one, they dropped it on a landmine and surrounded it with hungry lions.

Incidentally, TypeKey login is broken.


My girlfriend has a vaio from back when she was working for sony, and I have to agree; Sony are the bloatware specialists...
the hardware though... nice.

In general Sony's engineers seem to have the free hand in designing the prettiest, friendliest, most well-built machines possible. They get to develop advanced technology, or buy it from competitors at any price. At the cutting edge of consumer electronics their design process has the grace and elegance of a tea ceremony.
Their products have a soul.

Then, at a certain point during development, the engineers take their slick, shiny prototype up to the thirteenth floor and leave it on a massive smoked glasss table in an dark, empty conference room. They go home silently, and drink sake in a melancholy their wives cannot understand.

Back on the thirteenth floor, a team of crack marketeers emerges and starts handicapping the prototype. They add bloatware that links to unyielding vaporware websites, disable hardware for unlocking in future updates, install seven gigs of designer screen saver 'introduction' movies. They disable any meaningful way to use the device without buying into a distributed network of an occult protocol.

Meanwhile the CEO's stalk each other in bamboo rooftop forests, their katanas gleaming with the blood of intra-corporate informants as they search to battle for supremacy.

At home the engineers try to forget what could have been. At one point they have drank enough sakes to allow themselves to cry a single, desperate tear.




I was curious why you didn't perform a clean install. True, reinstalling apps is a pain in the arse, but the overall running time is usually less than that of doing the upgrade. Especially considering the reports of nuked systems, ridiculous running upgrade times, and whatnot with the Win7 upgrade process.

Also, thank you for Atrocity Archive and Jennifer Morgue. I enjoyed both greatly.


Really? I've installed win7 more times than I care to admit, and it takes less than an hour per. If I had found an fs that defective, in all honesty, I'd have replaced the drive first thing. Love you, but this is a case of "User error" ;)


Something wrong here, and I suspect the hardware. Disk ok? I installed Win 7 on two Sony laptops (both Viao machines). One was an upgrade from Visat and the other an fresh new install. Both work, no problem. Didn't take that long. Just worked fine. Also upgraded a desktop machine, along with installing Win 7 into a Macbook (VMware Fusion). Every one worked just fine.


Vaio's often don't work properly without the bespoke drivers/softwidgets for the peripherals (see also Acers). It's a conspiracy/cock-up guessing game as to why.

Recently dumped Win7 for Kubuntu on my Acer. I had not problems with Win7 practically speaking, but I didn't fancy paying for the upgrade from the free Beta. Turns out Kubuntu goes like the clappers and serendipitously, doesn't seem to be running all manner of processes with unclear purposes.

You can in fact do the same thing on an ext[234] filesystem with fsck; if you create the filesystem with dir_index manually disabled, then enable it, and then run e2fsck, it'll do roughly the same process. It's about ten times faster though, and the only people who would do this are those who are doing rolling upgrades from systems installed in the 1990s *and* who manually enable it.

Hah, I've done that. Yes, checking a moderately sized hard drive (for the time...I guess shortly after ext3 came out...2002?) took 2 or 3 hours. So yeah, about 10 times faster. I still need to find time to migrate to ext4 properly (backup, reformat, restore).

The computer in question has been continuously rolling upgraded from a 1996 install of Redhat 5.1 (to Fedora 12 last week).


Ok, nothing to do with this conversation but just read this in an article about hackable cameras in predator drones. I guess there are some Laundry fans in the Military Industrial Complex:

some of the drones would employ a sophisticated new camera system called "Gorgon Stare," which allows a single aerial vehicle to transmit back at least 10 separate video feeds simultaneously.



Andrew@1, Me@5: It's less embarrassing if you read the post first before leaving a comment, especially when one of the main themes of the post is how Sony make installing from scratch impossible.

Personally, I think Charlie made a mistake in buying the damn thing in the first place, and then doing what he never does and actually reading the instructions provided.


Charlie did say that he had a Sony specific upgrade version which required the presence of the Vista recovery partition.
Note, the normal versions of Win 7 will do a clean install with format without anything else being present so this is clealry a Sony issue.
Given the situation here I would have grabbed a normal version off Usenet and clean installed. Then just banged in your product key. I always clean format pre-built machines to clear the crap off them. In some cases some of it is demonstrably malware.
Installing Win 7 from a cheap USB stick is like ten times faster than from CD tho.


Seeing as it's a Vaio, the likelihood is that an off the shelf W7 disc wouldn't have had the drivers for whatever niche hardware Sony had built the device out of. Sony likes to do things their way if at all possible.


That's really awful; it reminds me of the time I backed up my laptop hard disk with rsync but didn't realise I was trying to backup /dev/. but that was my fault.


Wow! That sounds horrible. My worst experience with installing Windows involved trying to setup a dual-booting system while Windows didn't play nice. That still only took most of a weekend!

I managed to install Ubuntu three times on one machine in succession last night. Partly my fault, partly Ubuntu's rubbish disk partition software but it still took less than an hour each time.


Hmm. I'm not sure I'd buy a computer whose description on the manufacturer's website spends so much time talking about how pretty it is and so little time talking about the techinical specs...

That said, I'm glad you're getting things along there. Personally instead of dual-booting I've been using virtualbox to run a virtual instance of Ubuntu on my windows machines - less trouble getting the wireless working. But I'm guessing if Sony isn't willing to tell you the tech specs of the item, then it's probably not powerful enough to run virtual machines. :)

Good luck!


Good grief! I'm glad I built my new desktop/gaming machine myself and avoided the heartburn when upgrading. That sort of crap drives me to near-homicidal fury. I realise do-it-yourself is not practical for laptops, but I will definately avoid Sony for my wife's new laptop.

Thank you for sharing your trials and tribulations for our edification. It will undoubtedly save at least one reader (me) from loud screaming fits in the near future.


I just had the pleasure of upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 on my home desktop...and it really was a pleasure. It took maybe an hour, from putting the install disk in to having a finished system, and I even got to keep almost all the software I cared about (which I had installed in a different folder than \Program Files because they stored data in their root, which 7 Doesn't Like).

Far easier than upgrading my laptop from Ubuntu 9.04 to 9.10, which required at least 3 different tries over a 3-4 week period, 2 different reinstalls (of 9.04) after 9.10 choked horribly on my ext 4 filesystem (which took a little while to figure out), one partition wipe and reformat (to replace the ext 4 with ext 3), and finally having a working, decent system.

I suppose it's just a laptop "thing", isn't it?

@L2GX: That is a little gem.


And all the Office Computer Guys and Family Computer Guys who had been doing free support for Microsoft gradually turned into Linux Guys who you would be crazy to let anywhere near your Windows box, and all the users had to pay the full price for support, and the IT industry had to stop getting by on parasitizing those with the handyman instinct.


In this particular case, it isn't Windows per se that is the problem, it is Sony. A fresh install of Windows XP takes about an hour or so, something I do a regular basis with an old desktop. (I refuse to "upgrade" to Vista or Win7.)

I had similar headaches on an old Vaio laptop that really needed a Sony repair disk to reinstall Windows because of the need for very specific drivers to make it work correctly.

To me, your headaches with the Vaio Win7 upgrade are all part and parcel with the Sony brand having gone rusty. Having a Sony laptop is like living with a beautiful, but very high maintenance, woman.


This is one reason I always build my own machines. (Yeah, you can't homebrew a laptop, so I had to buy one for my daughter. Wot a pain.) If you build it, there is no crapware; you are starting from a tabula rasa. The trouble with your Sony is that you may need specialized drivers for some of its devices (this is a typical Sonyism)...but I still would have nuked the disk and started over from a clean install. FWIW, I recently did a new build, and the Windows 7 installation was by far the most pain-free OS installation I've ever done. This worries me, of course...what are they slipping by me?


Last time I saw a chkdsk run that long, Dell ended up sending me a replacement hard drive. There were at least three user errors involved in that one.

Minor grumbles from a non-gearhead, but opening Acrobat reader has been regularly crashing Firefox. Interesting thing: Adobe doesn't support Acrobat reader, unless you're willing to pay $$$. More interesting things: Foxit reader is free, and it works. Bye bye Adobe.

Oddly enough, I was going to buy Flash pro for an educational game I was bidding on. After that little fiasco, I'm now learning Blender.

I can't do as well as L2GX, but what is it with the suits? They're so caught up with the court intrigues, playing with trophy wife v 2.5 (third-party upgrades), and dealing with their spawn's nose candy affectations that they can't hear the growing silence on their estates, as the peasants slip away to homestead elsewhere.

Their attitudes are about as archaic too. Makes me think that, in a couple of centuries, the Armani business suit will be put in the same class as the codpiece and topknot.


Alex @20: yes, exactly so.


That reminds me buying of Byte, and reading Jerry Pournelle's troubles with getting new software to work (I miss that Mag.). Me,I'm sticking with XP it hardly ever freezes on me now, and I haven't had to reinstall...eh,since Spring! :)


Windows is lauded for its value because it runs on so many configurations and enables so many vendors to ship hardware and compete with one another - "the Windows ecosystem".

Some releases of Windows were critiqued because they took a long time to arrive - and a common response to the criticism is "Keep in mind that Microsoft has to make Windows work with all the different PC's out there". Fair enough.

But when someone posts a concrete, specific incident involving the latest Microsoft OS and some hardware from a top tier manufacturer, well, come on, it's Sony, their hardware is weird.


Costanza: the Windows value proposition you cite could equally well be matched by Linux (better device support, these days -- show me the flavour Windows that runs on an IBM mainframe or a Sun workstation!).

My impression of Windows is that it's overpriced and badly engineered, albeit primarily for historical reasons to do with backward compatability with the pile of rotting faeces that is everything Microsoft released and labelled as an "operating system" prior to Windows NT.


I am shocked that no one has posted an XKCD link yet. Buck up, Charlie, you didn't get eaten by sharks!

(And yes, clean installs are much more reliable in my experience. I have two drives, with all my stuff on one and my OS on the other, so I feel free to reformat with impugnity.)



Three upgrades from xubuntu 9.04 to 9.10. Slowest part was downloading the files from the internet. The actual upgrade process took about 30mins per machine.

I think the clean install in the separate partition was actually the slowest of the three because I had to futz around moving /home once everything was done and then figuring out what applications / packages I needed to install as well


Step 1: You might have backed up the Vista image from Linux. I don't have a GMA-500, but I understand it works in VESA mode, which is enough to open an xterm and type "dd if=/dev/sdaX ...".

I often test-install Linux on a new laptop by replacing the hard drive with a spare. Do a full install, play with it for a few hours or days, copy the tricky config bits off, then reinstall the original drive for the "real" install. Or throw the experiment away if it was too broken to use.

Anyway, I feel your pain, and wish you good luck getting a real OS onto that box.


We don't allow Sony laptops for our employees. They suck [up too many support resources]. The ones we've had look rool purdy but are just awful.

I've a couple spare in the cupboard if you want one.


Hey, Charlie!

It's not 1989 anymore - stop buying Sony stuff. The few things they make that actually work are maddeningly overpriced.



Even if you keep things completely vanilla, there will still be issues. But, my belief is that keeping things as vanilla as possible will minimize the issues. Who cares if there's an unused 9GB restore partition? I've got 16GB on the LaCie Imakey on the key ring in my pocket ...



IngSocBloc: I really don't do Dell.

And yes: I have tried a hackintoshed netbook. Got an Eee 1000 working fine. Trouble is, it was so pathetically slow it wasn't worth the effort. (Or the b0rked keyboard and lack of hardware design aesthetics.)


I feel your pain. Sounds like my recent attempt to shoehorn Ubuntu 9.10/Vista/Win 7/Win Server 2003 onto a co-worker's desktop she just bought. When I think about it logically, I realize that it's an operation guaranteed to take more than a single work shift. Alas. She'll live with the Ubuntu 9.10/Win 7 dualboot that was the survivor of the exercise.
All those examples of 'fast' Windows XP installs, well, they DO happen. Or Windows 7. I even got to see a Windows Vista install that took less than 1/5th of a work week. Disk images, like what gets throw at my work laptop three times before they discover the problem is actually a bad area on the hard drive. Those rip right on through. If you've changed hardware, good luck.

Sony I haven't had to mess with fortunately - I've heard nightmare tales regarding their crapware/customized firmware. Dell I've had good luck with, but that's likely because I reinstall Windows from a no-bloat recovery disk, then customize, then continually clean it up.

My most recent nightmare was recovering Win Xp Pro to an Acer which refused to recognize, by hook or crook, the DVD/CD drive as a bootable drive. BIOS or not, flashed BIOS up to most recent versions, nada. Shoehorned win XP into my (then) only 2gb flash drive, and tried from there. Hammered away overnight at the install/setup process. Wake up, PC has crashed entirely. Re-attempt, seven hours later, PC crashes again. Throw things. Install Linux from said USB (thankfully, the hardware support was there in 2.6 for everything on the PC). Wipe that, format from a LiveUSB of Ubuntu, and reinstall Windows XP for the 3rd time...and it took an hour.

I'd be quite happy with my current Asus, except that convincing Windows Vista that it does NOT get to claim 100GB of the total available 320GB is currently beyond my motivational level. Since the Windows utility refuses to re-size itself smaller, I'll have to throw a boot disk in to handle it.

Am I the only one with a pocket full of USB bootable OS/recovery flash drives, and a folder full of OS disks in their bag, on the daily?


I'd heard of Win 7 upgrades taking a really long time, but that's just insane.

I've always been very lucky with Win installs, but then I always do them clean. I think I remember some scary upgrades years ago when going from Win98SE to XP.

I haven't had to deal with a pc maker's crapware and an install yet (I nuked my Dell's Vista, installed Ubuntu, then nuked that and ran an RC candidate build of Win 7 for a while until the Nvidia graphics card bit the dust).

I'm actually installing Win 7 on a friend's desktop tomorrow, but once again I'm going to try to do it clean, so I don't expect much trouble.


Vic @24 - good news, Jerry Pournelle has kept right on writing about his computer tribulations. His "Computing at Chaos Manor" column and reviews have a new home here: http://www.ChaosManorReviews.com/ and he's also posting daily here: http://www.jerrypournelle.com/


Briefly looked at Sony options, then picked a Thinkpad X301. Full ubuntu install from scratch took 9 minutes. All components then functioned perfectly, even the built in 3.5G modem. I understand installing an Office application or anti-virus program on a windows machine takes more time. No longer willing to find out myself, life is too short ;-)


I can certainly recommend NOT buying Sony. I had to support a company that used all Sony Vaio laptops. Just don't do it.

Also the hardware, while being pretty, is really flimsy. IIRC Sony hardware engineers/designers removed the metal backing plate to the LCD screen to save weight.

This has the added advantage that the screens will crack with the slightest impact or flexing resulting in an expensive repair that isn't covered by the Sony Warranty for some reason.

Out of twenty laptops we had two with broken screens and three with cracked but useable screens.


I don't have the spare cash to do much, but I'm definitely in the build-it-yourself class. But then you have laptops.

OK, you have a Sony machine, under warranty, installing a Sony-supplied Win 7 upgrade, and the system reports the disk is horribly faulty. I'd make a warranty claim, and mutter about "not of merchantable quality".


Dave: there's a difference between filesystem-level corruption and physical hardware defects. In the case of the Vaio, it seems that disabling disk indexing (under Vista) causes the Sony-hacked Win7 upgrade to decide there's something Horribly Wrong and go into full-dress check-everything mode. Doesn't mean the hardware's defective. Just means putting Windows in the hands of Sony's software folks is like handing whisky and guns to pre-teen males.


Ooh I just remebered another Sony software horror story! I bought my then girlfriend and now wife a Sony digital player (256mb, a few years ago). It was a lovely piece of hardware, ran for days on a single AAA battery, and was easy to use.

The software that you HAD to use to get music from your PC to the device was one of the worst ever. It took an age to load, you had to convert all your music to the proprietary Sony format, then copy it onto the device.

The software staggered along at a snails pace and singularly one of the slowest, least intuitive, and pig ugly bits of software I've ever used - and that's comparing it to Windows Media Player!


Well, at east you ended up with a working OS.
I had the most terrible time recently with an Ubuntu upgrade. I decided to upgrade my 9.04 to 9.10. The upgrade run its couse, the system rebooted, and... The X-server wouldn't start. cryptic error messages appeared. Nobody else online seemed to have the same problems I did. I tried reinstalling from scratch and downloaded and burned the full install. Now it got worse - I got maybe a couple of screens into the install process and then the display got wonky - all I got was rows of colored pixels, pretty in itself but not very helpful. I tried to install from inside my windows OS using Wubi. Same result. I burned the install CD three times, just to be sure.

A week of futile attempts later I sat down and tried to figure what has changed on my hardware since the last time I installed Ubuntu. I couldn't think of any hardware I added lately, other than... no, can't be...

I reached out behind my station and pulled out the HDMI cable that connected it to my new TV set. Tried the install. Suddenly everything worked as it should...

...Until halfway int the process the installer burped some error message claiming that the CD or my drive was probably defective, at which point I decided I was okay with just one OS after all. If the universe doesn't want me to use Linux, then fine, I won't.

The lesson in all this if there is one - tis always the hardware.


I remember a sony F270 (I believe) from about 10 years ago which decided that it loved windows so much that the hard disc would die within three days of me putting Linux on it.

Attempt 1 debian (Warranty Return)
Attempt 2 redhat (Warranty Return)
Attempt 3 Slackware (Warranty Return)

After that I gave up and kept windows 98 on it and it lived happily for 3 years.

Since then I've only really gone for Sony when its been essential to save weight but with Dell now seemingly interested in sell high-spec lightweight machines I'll probably be heading in their direction in future.


Instead of Ubuntu try MacPup Linux, its a gorgeous little OS that runs like a pro. I installed it on a gateway laptop w/ the intel chip and have had no problems at all.


filekutter: I don't want small, I want complete. Nor do I want to learn how to manage the package system of a new distribution. I want to Get Work Done.

I'll have a look at it, but frankly, it doesn't sound like a match for my needs.


Dan@36 Yeah,I'm just getting old. I miss the cover art of Byte, Omni, The feel of- Oh, gotta chase those dang kids off my lawn! ;)


Microsoft: providing pointless hamster-wheel exercises for gearheads since 1976.

Except this is a Sony issue really isn't it?

That said, I still miss my TN-1 - simply the best laptop I ever had. We did about 200,000 miles together, even at the end when the crack in the mother board caused by one too many times being thrown into a luggage compartment caused her to die, she was still giving me a steady 7 hours from the battery. Amazing screen and great boot to DVD mode.

Weighed nothing, could be used in Economy on most airlines even if the idiot in front reclined...

The Dell I was given as a replacement never did it for me in the same way.


aah Sony. Whilst I certainly appreciate the sentiments with regards the crapware, and oh boy is it crap, i have to defend the hardware, at least my experience of it to date..
I'm writing this from my VGN-B1VP. I used to run a repair workshop for SMEs. This laptop came in by way of a PA who'd spilt her coco on it. she said about a pint or so. she then panicked and left it at home for a couple of weeks before it got noticed by her MD. It had dried quite thoroughly by the stage i got to see it and the director i was speaking to about it had figured it was time he got an executive upgrade and was going to hand-me-donw his nice (but 8 month old) Tosh to his PA. Insurance quote for fee and laptop goes in a box and sits on a shelf for several months. stock take, find box, get permission to own and remove to home.
I removed the battery, HDD and ROM drive and dunked it in 2 inches of warm water plus Fairy Powerspray. left to soak for 2 mins, rinse, repeat and removed to airing cupboard for 4 days.
plugged components back in, powered on from safe distance and IT LIVES!..
It's been running xp for some 4 years with nare a bug, other than the usual M$ failware.
I call it Death By Chocolate.

Aaannd having read this article i still think I'm gonna try Win7 at some point. course, it'll be fresh install and no Sony related software within a significant radius where possible.


Robin wrote: "Also the hardware, while being pretty, is really flimsy. IIRC Sony hardware engineers/designers removed the metal backing plate to the LCD screen to save weight."

Well, Mac laptops don't have a metal backing plate on the LCD - if you hold a powered-off Macbook up to a bright light, you'll see the Apple logo faintly through the LCD. And the logo lights up because of the LCD's backlight shining through.

If the Sony screens were breaking easily, I suspect the frame around the LCD wasn't strong enough.


re #3
Once upon a time Sony was a hardware company. Then it bought Columbia Pictures and Columbia Records, and became part of the fascist control freak RIAA/MPAA robber baron intellectual property rights confiscating distribution monopoly crowd.... It still makes hardware, but that's subordinated to the intellectual property absolute control outlook....

The other piece is that their hardware has its detractors "-Sony makes data converters that don't work when the weather gets extreme-" (I don't remember the exact quote anymore. If you're trying to take high resolution pictures during a very cold cold snap, you probably do NOT want Sony electronics parts in your digital camera....)


For evidence confirming the hypothesis / story in comment 2 I present this sony exec who seems to think that $100 for a pile of electrons (i.e. an ebook) is fine.


He also has some strange ideas about the value of DRM - he thinks it's an enabler instead of a disabler


Ubuntu 9.10 appears to have cleared up a lot of the Vaio P issues. Personally, I'm not brave enough to experiment with Wine performance on the few apps I need to run via the P, but it might be useful to you.



You have my sympathies. I upgraded a Windows version once, from Win 95 to Win 98. It was painless, but my upgrade method otherwise has been to buy a new computer.

The current desktop machine is from 2003 and is running Windows XP. It is not high-powered enough for either Vista or 7. I hope it will run for a good long time.

(Oh, and I am here via Brad DeLong.)


I bought an HP 1000-ish netbook early last summer. It booted to some Home version of Vista, which I used to register the machine with HP. Then I stuck the Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.00 memory stick in and let it wipe and install. Worked great except for the external speaker, about which I didn't care so never fixed. Then this past week it prompted me that 9.10 was available, so I told it to go ahead and upgrade itself. It went flawlessly and completely without intervention on my part, which was great as I had started the process and promptly left for a half-day meeting.

But after reading of your experiences, I'm going home tonight and give the little fella a hug. I don't normally think much of HP's hardware but this one Just Works. With Ubuntu it's considerably quicker than with the Windows it came with and even limited to 16GB solid state memory (no HD,) there's still 13GB left over for me. Plus USB memory sticks, of course. If they had just used IBM's old Butterfly keyboard concept...

:) Mike


I installed Windows 7 last night after my patience with XP x64's pariah status finally wore thin. It's been a bizarre kind of joke since that point. My GUI options are: a mostly-faithful representation of the Windows 2000 interface that isn't hardware accelerated, such that dragging a window around on the desktop consumes fully half of the available CPU cycles on a dual 2.6 GHz Athlon64; a skinned, software-driven version of the post-Vista Aero GUI with the same performance issues noted above; and a hardware-accelerated pile of gewgaw that manages to lack subtle visual contrast while remaining ostentatiously loud and unprofessional-looking. Otherwise it really is Vista warmed over, with moderately better performance...

But the strangest thing about all of this is that input from my PS/2 keyboard causes application-agnostic audio hitching. It can be as little as holding down the Ctrl key, and presto - random audio distortion and modulation besieges everything from Youtube to Winamp to Left 4 Dead 2. I've tried this with a Sound Blaster Audigy, and with integrated sound, and both behave essentially the same. Slackware's looking better all the time.


Having to run chkdsk on a fresh system, upgrade or not, is definitely a bad sign. I'd be concerned about the hd controller.

As far as getting Ubuntu running, you may want to consider the output from the Lubuntu project. It's based on Ubuntu 9.10 which should resolve your graphic driver issues, Having installed it on my Asus EEE 701, I can say that LXDE, beyond being much more responsive than Gnome or KDE (although about the same as xfce), fared very well visually on the EEEs small screen.


Morgan @56: read more closely -- the system wasn't fresh, I'd been running it for a month at that point.

(Also: I don't think I mentioned this, but I'd already made one run at Ubuntu 9.10 with Poulsbo drivers before I decided to upgrade from Vista to Win7. You may take it as read that if I'd gotten Ubuntu working, I wouldn't have bothered with the Windows upgrade. Okay?)


Could have been worse ...
It could have been an attempt to reload WfWg using 12 "floppies" ......


Intel GMA500 isn't a great card but Mint 7(based on Ubuntu) and OpenSUSE 11.2 both run well with it on my Eee901 with that card.
Suse is more of a workhorse while Mint is flightly butterfly.

If all you do web Mint is probably for you, has all the codecs and drivers you need for that, read Flash, DVD and other video. Gnome.

Suse does as well but it's for work, office, coding etc. It has all that Mint got, just a lot more solid and security prone. KDE4.3 really is a beaut now, KDE3 only snappier and more integrated.

Puppy Linux is also good for that kinda lowgrade card and space, Xcfe based. Never really used it for work but I know a lot of people who love it for it lightness and usability.


I'll be interested to see how things go with the Intel GMA500. I have a recently-purchased bigger brother Vaio, and so as to leave myself options for my unfortunate gaming addictions (and also in an attempt to avoid wacky driver issues), I took the same tack John Fiala @16 and run Ubuntu in a hyped-up Virtualbox VM (full-screen) most of the time. Works like a champ.


Ouch. This story makes me very glad that I just bought a Vista laptop - with a restore option to XP Pro. The entire process was painless and much quicker than a clean install of XP. And my many attempts at Linux have always crashed and burned, so you can guess what OS I'm using to type this.

By the way, your eyes can't be too bad mate. I can't use any screen smaller than 15 inches.


Did you get Jolicloud to work? I've been using it successfully on two different netbooks, and I like it. Definitely an improvement on XP. I was about to post the link you already found...


Hope it's up and working.



So, I totally buy that you have all the inside info to make the claim that a fresh install would be impossible, but I can't read that into the above article... maybe an update is in order?

That said, even if "sony" drivers aren't supplied, I've installed 7 on ages-old laptop with virtually no supported hardware (no video/audio drivers, not to mention the cardreader). Typically, you can get decent class type drivers online if you spend some time researching the actual chipset.