Linux on a Sony VAIO VGN-A197VP (PCG-8Q4M)

Last updated: 3-Mar-05 (modem driver issue)

I've got my new VAIO VGN-A197VP some time ago. To sum it up: I really like this display :-)

The short story

Device Model Status
CPU Intel Pentium M 735 1.7 GHz Working inclusive CPU throttling.
HDD 80 GB Hitachi IC25N080ATMR04-0 Working, of course. For now I'm using some conservative settings using hdparm.
LCD 17.0'' WUXGA TFT 1920x1200 Working
Graphics Card ATI Technologies RV350 (Mobility Radeon 9600 M10) 64MB VRAM Working using the XFree86 radeon driver in XFree86 Release 4.4. There's also a driver from ATI which I haven't tried.
Sound Intel 82801DB (ICH4) AC'97 Audio Controller (w/ Realtek ALC203) Working using the Alsa intel8x0 driver
Networking Intel 82541GI/PI Gigabit Ethernet Controller Working using the e1000 driver.
DVD+-RW SONY DVD RW DW-U55A Working, see below
Modem Conexant HSF Softmodem connected to Intel 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) AC'97 Modem Controller Unstable There's a commercial driver available at A bug in this driver causes the system to freeze (reboot required) after using the modem for about 30-60 minutes. This is known for several months now, but still has not been fixed.
Wireless LAN Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG Working using ndiswrapper, see below
Bluetooth Alps Electric (idProduct 3007?) Working (operates as an USB device)
USB Intel 82801DB (ICH4) USB 2.0 EHCI Controller, NEC USB 2.0 Controller Working using the ehci-hcd driver.
Memory-Stick Reader Unknown. Connected to a Texas Instruments PCI7420/PCI7620 Dual Socket CardBus and Smart Card Controler w/ 1394a-2000 OHCI Two-Port PHY/Link-Layer Controller Not working, but there's a data sheet available on the web. So maybe some nice guy will implement a device driver in the future...
CardBus Texas Instruments PCI7420 CardBus Controller Working using the yenta_socket driver.
Firewire Texas Instruments PCI7x20 1394a-2000 OHCI Two-Port PHY/Link-Layer Controller Working using the ohci1394 driver.
Soft-buttons   Mostly not working. See below.
Brightness sensor   Not working

Some more details

I'm currently using Debian sarge (a.k.a. testing as of writing this) with kernel version but I'll try to be not that much Debian-specific in the following.

ACPI issues

I've had some problems to power down this laptop completely. After a shutdown -h ... the LCD switches off and the disk spins down but the fan doesn't. Also the power LED indicates an uncomplete shutdown. A fix (or workaround, I'm not sure) is to pass nolapic as a kernel boot parameter.

CPU throttling

Using ACPI the CPU supports 8 states:
# cat /proc/acpi/processor/CPU1/throttling 
state count:             8
active state:            T0
   *T0:                  00%
    T1:                  12%
    T2:                  25%
    T3:                  37%
    T4:                  50%
    T5:                  62%
    T6:                  75%
    T7:                  87%                            
The active state can be changed by something like
# echo 7 > /proc/acpi/processor/CPU1/throttling
There's also a kernel option (CONFIG_CPU_FREQ) that allows CPU clock scaling. The right driver is speedstep-centrino (CONFIG_X86_SPEEDSTEP_CENTRINO) but as of kernel this CPU is not supported:
speedstep-centrino: found unsupported CPU with Enhanced SpeedStep
Another driver that uses ACPI (CONFIG_X86_ACPI_CPUFREQ) causes the kernel to Oops.


This is what I currently use as hard disk parameters:
# hdparm /dev/hda

 multcount    =  0 (off)
 IO_support   =  3 (32-bit w/sync)
 unmaskirq    =  0 (off)
 using_dma    =  1 (on)
 keepsettings =  0 (off)
 readonly     =  0 (off)
 readahead    = 256 (on)
 geometry     = 16383/255/63, sectors = 156301488, start = 0

Graphics Card

You will need a recent copy of XFree86. The ATI RV350 (Mobility Radeon 9600 M10) chipset is supported by the radeon driver in XFree86 Release 4.4. Due to license changes in the late versions of XFree86 R4.4 Debian will probably not provide official packages. I've found a packaged version at For those of you who also run xdm: you'll need a recent copy of xdm, too. xdm 4.3 doesn't work with an xserver 4.4.


This laptop features 3 buttons to mute, increase or decrease the volume. See


This one is working out of the box using the e1000 driver. No problems so far.


"Designed for Windows XP". You might have guessed it: it's a softmodem. To be more precise: a Conexant HSF softmodem, hardware revision CXT23 connected to an Intel 82801DB (ICH4) AC'97 Modem Controller. provides a commercially available
driver that I really can't recommend any more. I'll use my old cheap PCMCIA modem card again. At least it is working for more than 30 minutes without forcing me to reboot to get a usable system again ;(


The bluetooth device can be turned on and off using a (real hardware) switch. It then operates as an USB device. It's supported by the kernel's hci_usb (CONFIG_BT_HCIUSB) driver. I was able to establish a connection to my Nokia 6600 mobile phone (bluez-utils required).

Wireless LAN

There are 3 different drivers for this device:
The native ipw2200 (current version is 0.8) now works for me after I patched it to be used in my (weird?) environment. I haven't tried encryption yet.

ipw2200 is still under development and there are more success reports.

ndiswrapper requires Windows drivers to work. I took the driver (named w22n51.sys and the corresponding inf file w22n51.inf) from Windows XP shipped with this laptop. Version 0.9 of ndiswrapper locks my keyboard, this is fixed in current (as of writing this) v0.10. Just compile and install the driver and use the supplied command line tool to register the Windows driver (ndiswrapper -i w22n51.inf). As with ipw2200 I haven't tried encryption yet.

I haven't tried the wrapper yet and probably will not. Ndiswrapper is working fine. I'll switch to ipw2200 within the next days. But feedback is welcome here!

DVD+-RW drive

Writing CD-R/CD-RW/DVD+R/DVD+RW works. I haven't tried DVD-R/DVD-RW yet. Burning under Linux version is just a PITA :( Don't try that, at least not using non-rewritable discs.


There are special buttons to mute, increase and decrease volume; one that should change lcd screen brightness, another to zoom (whatever) and finally a button labeled "S1". The mute button works in hardware. The current sonypi driver (tested version was v1.23) generates the same event for all these.

There's another soft-button: one that should eject the CD/DVD. This one is supported by the sonypi device driver and generates the same event as Fn-E does. (There's also a (really tiny) button that ejects the CD/DVD without any software support).

For now I'm masking some event types using mask=0x000C (as an option to sonypi).

This is what I'm using to get the brightness (Fn-F5, Fn-F6), video out (Fn-F7), suspend to disk (Fn-F12) and eject (Fn-E) keys to work:-

Make sure to adjust the paths in the startup script. Or (if you're running Debian) you can give this package a try.

Brightness sensor

Needs software support and doesn't work yet.

Some more files

Here are some configuration files I use:

And finally,

as usual: any feedback that can impove the content of this page is welcome. Just send me an email: spamtrap (at) siglost (dot) org. (Yes, this is really one of my email addresses.)
Last changed: 3-Mar-05