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My girlfriend got a new Subnotebook for Christmas (Sony Vayo VPCY21S1E), which comes with an "Intel HD graphics" vga adaptor.

When I try to boot the Ubuntu installer from USB, the screen goes blank after a short while, before I even see the Ubuntu logo. However, when I select "nomodeset" in the boot options, I can boot it to the CLI login prompt. When I start X, though, that only works in VESA mode (I've read Intel eventually got rid of Usermode Mode Setting and only offers KMS now, which I've disabled to get it to boot).

What can I do to enable a) higher resolution than 1024x768 in VESA b) hardware acceleration for compiz, video playback, etc?

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Did you finished installing ubuntu first? since starting X normally will load VESA, does not matter what video you have (Nvidia, Intel, Ati) it will load VESA since it thinks that you are loading it like that because there was a problem which could be related to video. So my question is, did you install Ubuntu on the PC and THEN test to see if it worked or has an option to install an enhanced version of Intel afterwards? –  Luis Alvarado Dec 27 '10 at 19:10

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Ubuntu on the Sony Vaio VPCY 21S1E

This is a subnotebook (“ultraportable”) sold by Sony with quite a nice hardware lineup. Installing Ubuntu on it wasn’t quite easy due to graphic drivers but fear not! There is a solution that makes it work 100%, including 3D acceleration. Also, the touchpad doesn’t work at first. Doesn’t matter either, we’ll fix that too.

Issues with this laptop

  • Graphics issues (wrong resolution, only VESA works)
  • Touchpad doesn’t work
  • Battery meter in GNOME panel doesn’t show the remaining battery power

All those issues have fixes.

Hardware list

Per default, the device comes with

  • Intel Pentium U4500 1,2 GHZ (with two cores)
  • 4 GB RAM (shared with the graphics chip)
  • Intel HD graphics (doesn’t really seem to have a “model name” other than that. It’s integrated into the CPU
  • 1366x768 display at 12”, also has HDMI and VGA ports
  • WiFi: Atheros AR9285 (b/g/n), Ethernet: Atheros AR8131 (Gigabit)
  • some 320 GiB SATA HDD
  • multitouch Touchpad
  • the usual other ports: Firewire, 3x USB, headphone and microphone, SD Card reader

Default Configuration

Per default, the laptop comes with 3 Partitions already:

  • /dev/sda1 9,61 GiB (rescue partition)
  • /dev/sda2 100 MiB (system reserved)
  • /dev/sda3 the rest (Windows 7)

Installation

Graphics issues

When booting from standard Ubuntu installation media, the screen goes blank right at the beginning, even before the boot splash. This is due to the graphics card not being supported correctly by the kernel. What doesn’t work is Kernel Mode Setting (i.e. switching resolution etc), hence the black screen.

Graphics solution

To install Ubuntu correctly, you will need the Alternate Installation CD. And since your laptop has 4 GiB of RAM, you will need the amd64 variant.

  1. Get the alternate amd64 installation ISO from the Ubuntu homepage
  2. Burn an installation cd or write it to usb and boot from your medium.
  3. On the first splash screen, press any key to be shown the boot options.
  4. Press F6 to see advanced settings and select nomodeset. This will disable Kernel Mode Setting and allow you to see at least text.
  5. Installation should work self explanatory from there.
  6. After the reboot, you should see the standard greeter and log in.

Don’t worry if the touchpad doesn’t work. We’ll fix that later. Also, we’ll improve the screen resolution. Until then, plug in an USB mouse.

Installing another kernel

Since we disabled kernel mode switching before installation and Intel has removed User Mode Switching in their drivers, we’re running on VESA drivers that support only 1024x768. To fix that, we will have to both re-enable kernel mode switching and install a newer kernel with the appropriate drivers.

Before we install a new kernel, re-enable KMS:

gksudo gedit /etc/default/grub

In the line that starts with GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX= remove everything between the quotes. Leave the quotes where they are.

As of 2010-12-28, I had the best luck with the 2010-12-24 snapshot of 2.6.37rc3:

Install the packages you just downloaded.

Installing the latest video drivers

Add the Ubuntu X-Swat-Updates PPA:

sudo add-apt-repositry ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade -u

Battery meter

To see your current battery capacity, you’ll need to install an updated GNOME power manager. Add a PPA that includes the bugfix

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:brian-rogers/power
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade -u

Reboot

After reboot, the new kernel and system updates will have taking care both of the graphics issues and the nonworking touchpad. The new GNOME power manager and upower packages should show the correct battery capacity, too.

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I was going to write for tuxmobile, linux-laptop, some wikis or some other place, too. I'll post it here, too. –  Florian Heinle Dec 28 '10 at 10:50

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