The PictureBook, a.k.a Sony VAIO PCG-C1VN
This is our first look at an amazing little computer system, the Sony PictureBook. The look comes primarily from its travels with me in Costa Rica in December 2000.
Before getting into specifics, let me say that the basic machine is amazing. That is, you get an amazing amount of computer in a package that could not even have been imagined a few years ago.
However, it still isn't my favorite laptop; my favorite remains my five-year-old Toshiba T3600. While the T3600 is bigger and heavier, it is about as small as is practical for a serious laptop. Being primarily a vi user, the 486/50 and 16MB of RAM is sufficient for me, and the six-hour battery life is more than enough.
On its own merits, however, the PictureBook is a real winner. It measures 248 x 27 x 152 mm and weighs in at 2.2 lbs. The official name is the Sony VAIO PCG-C1VN. It has a 400MHz Crusoe processor, 128MB of RAM, a 12GB hard drive and a 1024 x 480 active matrix display.
Before getting too far past my mention of battery life, the PictureBook wins in this category. While we haven't run extensive tests yet, a good guess is three to four hours on the standard battery. A 4X battery is also available that should be good for well beyond a whole work day.
Additionally, interfaces are available for most anything, including FireWire, USB, sound, digital video and there's even a slot for Sony memory sticks. Note that no serial or parallel port is included; however, with all the other choices this is not likely to be a serious problem. Also included is a Winmodem (which isn't supported by Linux) and a Type II PCMCIA slot for anything else you may need.
If these features aren't enough, toss in a built-in camera that, under Linux, can capture JPGs or write an AVI file. The mouse is one of those little pencil eraser-like gizmos but, on the plus side, it has three buttons rather than the more standard and expected two.
By that, I mean, can you really treat this system as a laptop or is it more of a toy? The VAIO is no toy. The excellent screen, fast speed and huge disk make it a real computer. I see it as the perfect system for either travel to remote locations where size and weight are really important, or cases when you need a part-time system, such as making a presentation at a tradeshow.
The VAIO's speed and disk capacity make it a real computer. In fact, only one hardware item detracts from the system's overall usability--the keyboard. The size, while certainly on the small end, isn't the significant problem. In order to get the keys (specifically, the arrow keys) where they wanted them, Sony decided to make the slash key (/) substantially narrower than all of the other keys. They also made the right Shift key the width of a standard key rather than the same width as the left Shift key.
While the slash key may not be especially important to an MS-Windows user, a Linux/UNIX user can get frustrated quickly. I also found myself hitting the up arrow key when I intended to press the right Shift key.
That's it for my hardware complaints. However, I do have some hardware-created complaints and some software problems. First, the special "Fn" keys don't. These are key sequences where you press the Fn key, as a special sort of shift key, followed by another key. These sequences perform such functions as changing the display brightness, selecting external video port vs. local display and displaying battery status.
On earlier VAIO models, these sequences were handled by the BIOS, but in this system, they have been changed to software interpretations. While not an insurmountable problem, Linux support had not been added when I received this system. As this is a common "feature" of the new VAIOs, I'm sure a modified keyboard driver is in the works.
The computer comes with a USB to SVGA cable. Connect your monitor at boot time, and Linux sees and talks to it as well as the internal display. But it talks at the same resolution as the internal screen, so squares become rectangles. This problem will have to be addressed before this puppy is a good choice for connecting to overhead projectors.
The next problem was that only a modified version of Red Hat Linux was available. In an office that runs all Debian systems, this wasn't what I wanted to hear. If for no other reason, having to deal with a totally different configuration system was not what I needed. In addition, the vi command-line editing mode of bash does not work on the default version included with Red Hat--correctable but another unnecessary frustration. Hopefully, the lack of availability of other Linux distributions and the Fn key problem will be addressed before you read this review.
Finally, this system is running the 2.2.17 kernel. Rumor was the 2.4 kernel would not boot on the PictureBook with the Crusoe chip. This chip is made by Transmeta, Linus' employer, and Linus has one of these systems. He quickly traced the problem to APM. Disabling APM makes the 2.4 kernel boot fine; it is up to those working on APM to figure out what to do next.
Fast/Flexible Linux OS Recovery
On Demand Now
In this live one-hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for complete disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible full-system recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.
Join Linux Journal's Shawn Powers and David Huffman, President/CEO, Storix, Inc.
Free to Linux Journal readers.Register Now!
- Download "Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI"
- Petros Koutoupis' RapidDisk
- ServersCheck's Thermal Imaging Camera Sensor
- The Italian Army Switches to LibreOffice
- Linux Mint 18
- Oracle vs. Google: Round 2
- The FBI and the Mozilla Foundation Lock Horns over Known Security Hole
- Privacy and the New Math
- Varnish Software's Varnish Massive Storage Engine
Until recently, IBM’s Power Platform was looked upon as being the system that hosted IBM’s flavor of UNIX and proprietary operating system called IBM i. These servers often are found in medium-size businesses running ERP, CRM and financials for on-premise customers. By enabling the Power platform to run the Linux OS, IBM now has positioned Power to be the platform of choice for those already running Linux that are facing scalability issues, especially customers looking at analytics, big data or cloud computing.
￼Running Linux on IBM’s Power hardware offers some obvious benefits, including improved processing speed and memory bandwidth, inherent security, and simpler deployment and management. But if you look beyond the impressive architecture, you’ll also find an open ecosystem that has given rise to a strong, innovative community, as well as an inventory of system and network management applications that really help leverage the benefits offered by running Linux on Power.Get the Guide