Strange experience with Sony laptop's hardware drm protection.

Forum: LXer Meta ForumTotal Replies: 9
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Aug 29, 2010
10:04 PM EDT
Okay this one has nothing to do with linux (GNU/Linux). I was given a Sony VGN-NS230E by my coworker and was told the screen was dead, do whatever with it, if it don't work just trash it.

Actually Windows was just dead and you just get a black screen and the WiFi on/off switch broke off from the inside. The person was already intended to buy a newer, faster 14" laptop, we looked but most of the better 14" are $700+. I persuaded just stick with this one and upgrade some parts. I had some DDR2 laptop rams to give and also we would switch out the old hdd which was kind of slow (5400rpm).

Sony wouldn't boot with the new parts. Eventually we found out the Sony only boot with its original ram. Secondly, when I went in to do Windows installation, it did not detect the new 7200rpm hdd. What happen here is they probably locked the bios with the part's serial numbers (The Sony BIOS screen has almost no settings whatsoever). Since the warranty already ran out, if either the hdd or ram fail, the laptop would be useless or he had to send it back to Sony for a (probably) high repair charge.

I actually dualboot Ubuntu for him and he is liking it for its speed.

Later, I can tell you about the excruciating 12-hours process of restoring a corrupted Windows partition with its bootsector broken as well.

Aug 30, 2010
7:54 AM EDT
I'll echo with an HP laptop with a Broadcom wifi card.

Swap it out with a nice Atheros, but no, it doesn't even show up in lspci. Locked out, as you say.

Hardware DRM is a nasty, nasty trick. I won't be buying HP or Sony again.

Aug 30, 2010
7:57 AM EDT
Would replacing the BIOS get rid of these hardware lock-ins?

Aug 30, 2010
8:50 AM EDT
> I won't be buying HP or Sony again.

For all the bad things I can say about Dell (and I can say plenty), I've never heard of them pulling this kind of stunt.

I've also never heard of it for either Acer (who now own Acer, E-machines, and Gateway) or Toshiba. But I have less experience with them.

So yes, definitely stay away from HP and Sony.

Aug 30, 2010
12:49 PM EDT
> Would replacing the BIOS get rid of these hardware lock-ins?

Of course, but replace it with what? I also fully expect it's soldered to the motherboard.

Yes, maybe it's re-flashable. Maybe.

I'll just be looking at Toshiba instead. I've never heard a bad word about them, or were they the ones setting themselves on fire?

Aug 30, 2010
12:57 PM EDT
> ... or were they the ones setting themselves on fire?

The batteries which could catch on fire hit pretty much everyone, if I remember correctly.

Aug 30, 2010
1:11 PM EDT
It's not hard for Dell to look good in a scenario like this.

Aug 30, 2010
2:08 PM EDT
> It's not hard for Dell to look good in a scenario like this.

It takes a scenario like this to make Dell look good.

Aug 30, 2010
5:33 PM EDT
There are two good Toshiba to look at, the L645D 14" Triple-core and the L655D 15" Quad-core It seem that AMD cpu laptops tend to be cheaper right now. The only concern I know was my brother Toshiba's backlight died on him 3 times, it was an older model though. I do not think / not sure Toshiba manufacturer TN panels.

The one I recommended my co-worker is the Asus UL80t, it is 14" w/ optical drive, switchable NVidia/Intel GPU and 12hours battery life.

Next year AMD is coming out with two new cpu series, Bobcat which is sub 10w and Bulldozer which is 8cores. I'm waiting for these before upgrading.

Aug 30, 2010
5:47 PM EDT
I run an AMD-equipped Lenovo. And yes, they are cheaper. Wish I had Intel sound rather than Conexant, which appears to hate Linux (and ALSA).

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