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Sony Picturebook – CD-ROM, RAM, Linux and WiFi

This poor little machine has been in its box for quite a while. I bought this Sony PCG-C1VS/BW PictureBook a while ago from Retro ShopBox on eBay (highly recommended!), but just hadn't gotten around to really using it! It's in great condition, with the only real issue being a missing battery latch, but the battery is still nice and snug. I've recently picked up a CD drive for it and can now install random OS'sss! I also found a RAM upgrade to max the poor thing out.

64mb Memory Upgrade

This unit is limited to 192mb of RAM, coming with 128mb RAM as standard. This means that, somewhere in the universe, there's 64mb upgrade cards floating around. I had to scour Yahoo Auctions Japan to find the component and used Buyee to get it over here.



Installation couldn't be any more simple. Flip the unit over, undo the single screw, open the case and insert the card.

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Yey! 176mb usable RAM after the Video took 16mb? (Below Linux only seems to think it's 8192kb... what's a CMS?)


I found the CD drive on Yahoo Auctions at the same time as the memory upgrade above. It was to be more economical to ship them all at the same time.


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Note that the PCMCIA card and cable are fixed; there's no ability to remove them. Sony thought ahead though! You can actually run the cable in the space provided under the drive, with the card finally popping into it's housing to be tucked away!



And check that out, the drive even comes with an eject pin! It's neatly housed underneath and locked away when the PCMCIA card is slotted in. Very handy to get your CD back our when you've disconnected the drive! No more paper clips.


I love that it shows the raw name of the ATA hardware. It's a Ninja!?

RedHat Linux 5.2

I purchased this beautiful boxed set from a flea market a while back and got it running on an old 386. I simply assumed it would just work on this unit also. The Transmeta Crusoe emulated an x86, right?


There was a floppy disk, but I can't run both a CD and Floppy drive at the same time... fortunately CD1 is bootable!


...unfortunately, that's where it stopped... no amount of boot arguments got the boot process any further than the above line.

RedHat Linux 7.2

It was obviously going to be an uphill battle from here, so I prepared myself with a little google'ing. Of course, people have already gone and installed linux before, so it was totally possible. The main point was to choose a distribution that was of the same era (or maybe even 6-months older than the unit) to make sure that there had been time for the community to make everything compatible. I ended up chosing RedHat 7.2. Note that this isn't RedHat Enterprise Linux! Well, I lie.. it is, but RedHat 7.2 is actually RHEL 2.1.


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Default boot parameters caused resolutions that were well out-of-range for this unit's display (1024x480). I fought a little.. lowres nearly worked, but didn't let me actually see the required buttons! I decided to just go with text mode.

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Make sure you configure the x-server at the end and set a resolution that will display! I chose 640x480.


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From here the unit booted nicely! We were at the login screen, but I wanted to set the resolution correctly, once-and-for-all. XF86Config-4 had created by the Anaconda installer and was the file I needed to edit to get the proper modeline in. At the graphical login prompt, you can switch to any text console by pressing the CTRL-ALT-F[1-4] key combination. Hit CTRl-ALT-F1 and log in as the account you set up during install; or log straight in as root. Switch to root (if required) (su -) and then edit the XF86Config-4 configuration file located in /etc/X11. You'll need to use vi if you've installed no other editors! Browse down to the Monitor section and add the following ModeLine (press the insert key to start editing):

"1024x480" 65.00 1024 1032 1176 1344 
                  480  488  494  563 -hsync -vsync

Once saved (: w q) you can press CTRL-ALT-F7 to get back to the graphical login screen. From here, choose Menu and then Restart X-Server... yosh!

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Sound also actually just-worked(tm) out of the box, albeit a little choppy.

Wireless Networking: Belkin F5D7011 v1000

I have other PCMCIA Wireless cards, but this one happened to be in the same box as the laptop. To get it going, we'll need to use ndiswrapper which is a neat windows-drivers-on-linux translation layer utility, and luckily my card shows up as supported in the hardware compatibility list. Following the changelog, we'll need to download Version 1.48 2007-09-19 or earlier, as they dropped support for our Kernel (2.4) in version 1.49. The main list of downloads it here, and v1.48 is here.

As I've got no network yet, I'll need to either burn a CD, or use a thumbdrive... Don't forget to download the actual windows drivers (I need the F5D7011 v1000) and extract them on the windows side first. But! That link didn't work, so I actually found them here.

From here, things got murky... turns out 1.48 of ndiswrapper needs a newer kernel. I tried lower versions and found that 0.1 tried to compile. It actually built! But then told me that I needed a kernel with loadable module support. Oh good... should we recompile the kernel? Can't! No sources! Downloaded the RPMs for that here.. then performed rpm -i. Ok, sources... let's try make them... make config.. I just hit the enter key through most of it... made sure you that I answered the question to loadable modules. Then I followed this to build the required components: make, make dep, make bzImage, make modules, make modules_install. Copied bzImage to boot, edited grub.conf... reboot... fail...


I might just upgrade to a newer version of Linux.

Wifi: Buffalo WLI-PCM-L11G

Just worked when I plugged it in... no eth0 or wi0 though? WPA Supplicant would be needed, but it didn't want to run with my base 7.2 kernel. the earliest release.

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Can't work with the driver? I have no idea if it even works with my card :(

Other distributions?

Moray Allan has a post regarding Linux on the C1VE. It details debian and installation procedures. But that would/could still cause me to have a kernel that doesn't support WPA. Either way, I scoured ISOs are available here.


Choose to Expert install and set a proper video mode, otherwise you'll get the screen above. I failed the installation as it's netinst and I needed my PCMCIA slot for the CD!


What about Puppy? Make sure you choose a version that is both non-uefi and non-pae! Currently to be found in here. It tried to boot the ISO and then failed to find it. So I copied the ISO to a USB and had that inserted on boot. It found it and tried to go further but then got stuck at the sound module, letting out an awful noise that seemed to be destroying the hardware!


About stevenh

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