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Sony PCG-C1VS/BW PictureBook

I've always loved this form-factor. Sony did a really great job early on with their Vaio C1 Series subnotebooks. Known as the 'PictureBook' (Product Brochure), it's a pocket-sized letter-box bundle of fun. This is one of the first, from Japan, with the a Transmeta Crusoe 600mhz. You may not have heard of Transmeta... they were the first company in a long time to try and beat Intel at their game and built 'low power' but performing CPUs for the 'mobile' (laptop or hand-held touch-screen [this OQO]) device market.

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It came installed with Japanese Windows 2000. Not much fun and took forever to boot, so I attempted to get Windows ME on to it. Yes... Windows ME... there's even a sticker on the machine stating that it is designed for it! I didn't have an external drive for it, so I couldn't boot off anything but the internal HDD. It can't boot off USB, so you'd need one of the proprietary Sony external PCMCIA CD-ROM drives if you wanted to go down that route.

Instead, I grabbed a larger 2.5" IDE disk that I had lying around and created a bootable partition on it. This wasn't without its own complications! I then dumped the WinME CD onto the disk into its own folder before putting the drive into the Vaio.

Swapping out the HDD

Flip the beast over and take out all of the screws with an arrow pointing to them.

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Now take the battery out and pop off the two dark-purple caps. These are only clipped on, but require quite a bit of force. Edge your way around the circumference, prying them off around 3mm at a time.

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Once off, flip the laptop back up to its normal orientation and take out the screw top-left on the hinge.

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Now pry the keyboard up. Be careful once it is free as there are two ribbon cables that need to be undone before the keyboard comes completely away.

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All of these ribbon cables are held into the motherboard by a socket that has a removable plastic 'chock'. Grab a small flathead jewelers screwdriver and pry the chock up on both sides. Once it has shifted around 2-3mm then the cable can slide out. To put it back, lift the chock, slide the cable in and then firmly seat the chock once more.

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From here, there are 3 visible screws and one hidden. The hidden one is under the barcode sticker on the middle-right. Towards the right-hand side of it. Unfortunately, if you haven't already guessed, this does void your warranty! With this all undone, you should now be able to lift this part of the case to reveal the motherboard.

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Finally, to remove the HDD, lift the ribbon that is strapped across it and undo the 4 screws that hold the HDD caddy in place. Carefully pry out the IDE cable and then lift out the whole HDD and caddy.

Windows Millenium

After slapping the new HDD in, I ran WinME Setup. Everything went smoothly until it booted into the desktop.

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The resolution, instead of scaling to fit onto the screen, stretched to only showed me the center of the total view. No real issues here... I then scoured the internet for ATI Rage Mobility M1 drivers for Millenium and came up with very little. I then managed to blue-screen the thing in a matter of seconds; although it was my fault for removing the USB key prematurely. Actually, it wasn't even a real blue-screen... just a forceful way of Windows trying to convince users to cleanly unmount disks.

At this point I realised that I probably didn't want to run WinME as the default anyway... so chose to install WinXP.

Installing Windows XP

Use a 'non-ramdrive' boot disk from AllBootDisks for Win98SE. Parition, format and sys your disk and then copy the contents of the floppy to a folder called TOOLS on C:. Also grab the relevant XP install media and then copy the whole lot into a folder called WINXPCD on the disk. Once you've transplanted the HDD back to the VAIO, boot it up, CD to TOOLS and run SMARTDRV. If it complains that HIMEM.SYS is missing, then add a CONFIG.SYS to the root of C:\ with the single line DEVICE=C:\TOOLS\HIMEM.SYS and reboot.

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Once SMARTDRV is running, switch into the C:\WINXPCD\ directory and run I386\WINNT.EXE. You'd be forgiven for thinking SETUP.EXE was the correct file; this isn't the case! The installation may ask you where the files are... if it does, usually the answer it provides is the correct one. Otherwise just give it C:\WINXPCD.

Big note: If you get any errors during install (specifically regarding "setupORG.exe" or "presetup.cmd") then you're using a crappy copy of XP and need to find a legitimate MSDN ISO. You cannot, without edits that I haven't bothered to investigate, install the ISO you are using from your HDD.

You can then get all the WinXP drivers for this machine from the Sony Japan site here. If you can't handle the Japanese, then this third-party driver site might also help.

RAM Upgrade?

This japanese blog post seems to indicate that the user bought a picturebook with a 64mb upgrade in it and, after inserting a 128mb upgrade, the machine still displayed 192mb. This aligns with the specifications that say 192mb is the max anyway. Of course, Sony has used a proprietary SIMM slot and connector, so it'll be near-impossible to find anything. They seem rare on Yahoo Auctions... but I'll keep an eye out.

Further research brought me to this page on the PCG-C1XG which lists the memory modules available. Turns out there is a Sony official product for the 64mb upgrade and one is on its way to me from Japan!

*NIX?

Back at the Linux User Group at ANU in Canberra, the main developer of SAMBA (Hi Trudge!) had a PictureBook and pretty much wrote all the required drivers to get the machine up and running. Back then, the RAM this machine had would've sufficed with the relevant Linux distribution. I would love to know what version that was just to match all the generations up correctly.

Meanwhile, here's a random PDF full of information on customising the OS installation. They use System Commander for the boot menu and Vine Linux for the distribution. They do expect an external CD-ROM drive though!

I might try and find an external drive for this beast... otherwise I can slap the HDD back in a virtual machine and try and start the installation that way. Maybe a netboot first, transfer to real machine with PCMCIA network card and go from there?

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About stevenh

Trains... trains... trains... + Electronics + Japan.
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