Sony Vaio Z disabled (VT) Virtualization Technology

Update 30th July 2009: See this post for details of a confirmed VT fix for the Z11. I’m using it now!

I love my Sony Vaio Z.  It’s a wonderful bit of kit – exactly the power/portability ratio I wanted.  It has enough grunt to play the odd game in “Speed” mode while giving 6 hours of battery life on wireless in stamina mode.  Not to mention to gorgeous 1600×900 LED screen and the built in 3G wireless.

I have one problem with it and it’s a failing of Sony’s decision making rather than any particular problem with the kit.  Sony disable the Intel Virtualization Technology in the Core 2 Duo on all their Vaio machines.  I’ve seen no valid rationale for this other than “We don’t support VT on the Vaio range.”  This is absurd since all the Core 2 Duo chips feature Intel Virtualization Technology and I can’t imagine how having it switched on would adversely affect Vista or XP (the two Operating Systems Sony officially supports).

If this were a consumer laptop I could understand – but it’s specifically targeted at business users.  In my business I make extensive use of both Microsoft and VMWare’s virtualisation systems – both of which run much faster on hardware that has the VT functionality enabled.  There are a good number of people on various forums spitting blood about this issue so I’m not the only one complaining.

There is light, of sorts, at the end of this tunnel.  Since Sony have done this before on other machiens in the Vaio series, people have managed to re-enable VT by using BIOS editing tools to flip the right register.  Unfortunately it requires intimate knowledge of the BIOS – knowledge that we won’t have until Sony release a BIOS update that can be reverse engineered.  If we’re very lucky Sony will make amends by releasing a BIOS update that allows us to enable VT in the BIOS interface proper.

The worst part of this is that we (Vaio Z owners) didn’t know that VT was disabled until after we bought the machines.  I know a number of people have returned their units and bought Toshiba or Dell machines that haven’t been crippled by the vendors.  Sony advertised a Core 2 Duo Mobile processor, they didn’t mention in any literature that they’d be disabling bits of the processor for no reason.

Sony, if you’re reading this – please give us control over the entire processor and let us enable VT.

Sony Vaio Z Series

I’m lusting after the new Sony Vaio Z Series which doesn’t come out in the US until mid-August, and I’ve no idea when it comes out in the UK.  Annoyingly, while the US site allows you to configure your system from scratch – including putting in dual solid state drives – Sony UK limit us to choosing from three prescribed models, none of which contain quite the match of processor and storage I’m looking for.
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ZX Spectrum nostalgia

I can’t remember when I first played with a ZX Spectrum.  I know I must have come to the party relatively late since I was only 4 when it was released, unlike Chris who was old enough to have one at launch.  This weekend he rescued one from his mum’s rubbish bin, complete in the polystyrene box it originally came in and with mint condition manuals.  It even has the guarantee certificate, an unopened demo cassette and the 1982 Edition of the Sinclair Software Catalogue! Continue reading

Apple support Vista on BootCamp

Apple updated BootCamp today and introduced support for Windows Vista, so it looks like I can spend some time over the weekend doing a fresh install of Vista with supported drivers this time.  Of course it also means I get to have some fun removing the Microsoft Bluetooth stack and replacing it with a fully functional Widcom one, but them’s the breaks.  The new BootCamp introduces lots of updated drivers (including the camera on Vista) and hopefully does something about the power saving and suspend/hibernate issues.  Although they may be more to do with Vista itself rather than the MacBook Pro hardware.  We shall see…

Why my primary Windows XP machine is still a Dell

MacBook ProThe MacBook Pro is great running XP; but has several flaws which mean it probably won’t become my primary machine just yet…

 

  • No Audio Routing
    If you plug headphones into the headphone socket audio continues to come out of the speakers. This is known (and documented by Apple) but is still irritating. If I’m in the office I quite often listen to mp3s/the radio on headphones. Also, when I play games I nearly always do so with headphones on for the immersive experience…
  • Limited Bluetooth Support
    I use my phone’s Bluetooth headset as a headset in games that support it (UT2004, CounterStrike) and for Skype calls. Either the driver in the MacBook doesn’t support the headset profile, or the hardware doesn’t support it. Either way, it’s an annoying limitation.
  • Heat
    This is the real killer. The MacBook Pro runs hot… Even in OS X – when you push the CPU – it gets very hot. Running in XP though, without the advanced power management, it gets hot quickly. So hot in fact that the grill to the left of the keyboard becomes painful to touch. That’s no good for prolonged periods of typing!
  • The Trackpad
    In OS X there is a tickbox for trackpad settings that “ignored unintended input” – so if you knock it with your wrist while typing it knows to disregard it. Not so for XP. Try typing for any length of time and you find the cursor jumping all over the place as you accidentally click all over your document. Grrr!

I imagine that further updates to the beta will fix some of these niggles, but for now I’m still using the Dell for day to day work and games.

One thing I did manage to do with the MacBook Pro was remap the keyboard. Now \ is in the correct place (next to left shift) as is the back tick (next to the 1 key) and I’ve given myself a right-alt key (the right command key) and a del key (next to the left cursor). So I can hit ctrl-alt-del and I have a right-alt to control MS Virtual Server properly now!

It’s a fantastic games machine; HalfLife 2, UT2004 and RoN all perform flawlessly… I just worry about the heat. I hope Apple issue a BootCamp driver update for APM.