back to article Sony's Windows 7 virtualization switch-off (partly) reversed

Angry Sony PC customers who've splashed out nearly $2,000 on a new Vaio laptop should give up hopes of running Microsoft's XP virtualization technology in Windows 7. The consumer electronics giant has said it will enable Intel's Virtual Technology (VT), which supports Windows XP Mode in the forthcoming Windows 7, only on …

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WTF?

Another proof

that you have to be a total idiots to buy any sony products. Exploding battery, virus infected music CD, illegal DRM all arround and now illegal bios crippling.

Class action lawsuit is the only thing Sony deserve

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VitualBox as the solution?

So install an acceptable flavor of Linux on a pc

Install VirtualBox with a Windows xp (UE of equivalent) that fits for your usage, use the same basic image on all the other machines and continue working.

Lot cheaper and probably more stable, less time consuming(?) and will work with the old hardware (maybe just a memory upgrade)

An maybe it is now a good time for SUN to create a VirtualBox without the use of vx/vt etc.

(like Parallels had before they could not keep up with the linux kernel versions)

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FAIL

After the rootkit fiasco

I'd have to say that anyone who buys stuff from Sony deserves all they get.

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FAIL

How many times do I have to tell people...

...not to buy Sony products because they are overpriced and often terminally crippled. I had hoped they'd turned a corner after taking on Tim Schaaff and lightening up ove DRM in SonicStage but alas here's another return to form. Looks like I need to add another paragraph to the Sony section of my 'avoid like the plague' page! http://www.technicalbloke.com/NOTrecommended.php

Pah!

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Silver badge

The irony

"...enabling VT would expose our systems to malicious code that could go very deep in the Operating System structure of the PC..."

I really don't need to add to this, it's already hilarious.

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Grenade

I've seen enough of this with cell phones...

disabling features should be illegal.

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Boffin

It is possible to enable VT

I bought a VGN FE-41Z in early 2007. It had the same issue - BIOS set-up has no facility to enable VT on the Intel Core 2 Duo CPU. I bought it for the virtualization functionality. I use Linux rather than Windows and use KVM extensively.

I investigated the Phoenix BIOS and discovered that by changing a bit flag in the NVRAM settings VT can be enabled since the BIOS code that enables VT *does* check the flag. It is just that Sony don't provide a menu option for it and the default state is disabled. Each setting in NVRAM is called a Token and each has a number.

Using the Phoenix symcmos.exe utility with FreeDos on a bootable CD the token can be changed in NVRAM.

From May 2007 the FE41Z has had VT enabled and I've never had to mess with the flag again.

I posted my findings and several other people were able to enable the VT on their Vaios too.

Unfortunately there isn't a universal foolproof method of determining which NVRAM token to change - each model is different (based on the options built into each BIOS image).

The key is to extract the BIOS image into its constituent modules and then find the code that checks the token and sets the CPU flags (usually in BIOSCOD6.rom).

The code will look something like this (my comments added):

0000A855 0FA2 cpuid

0000A857 25FF0F and ax,0xfff

0000A85A 3DE106 cmp ax,0x6e1

0000A85D 722E jc 0xa88d

0000A85F 660FBAE105 bt ecx,0x5

0000A864 7327 jnc 0xa88d

0000A866 66B93A000000 mov ecx,0x3a ; MSR VMX control

0000A86C 0F32 rdmsr

0000A86E 660FBAE000 bt eax,0x0

0000A873 7218 jc 0xa88d

0000A875 50 push ax

0000A876 B89501 mov ax,0x0195

0000A879 9A204100F0 call 0xf000:0x4120

0000A87E 58 pop ax

0000A87F 7405 jz 0xa886 ; ZF set == VMX disabled

0000A881 660FBAE802 bts eax,0x2 ; Enable VMX

0000A886 660FBAE800 bts eax,0x0 ; Lock MSR until power cycle

0000A88B 0F30 wrmsr

Locate this code by finding the instructions:

66B93A000000 mov ecx,0x3a

0F32 rdmsr

The code following is likely to be the setting code, but needs confirming. There can be other reads of this MSR.

The Token number is then seen in the AX register when calling the BIOS's Read NVRAM token sub-routine:

mov ax,0x0195

call 0xf000:0x4120

In this case the Token is 0x0195

Use symcmos.exe to save the text file containing all the tokens and their values:

A:\ symcmos.exe -Lliteral.txt

( SYMBOLIC CMOS EDITOR - Version 643710-032 )

( BIOS Version: NAPA0001.86C.0032.D.0702051952 )

CRC = 2786

(0000) [0001]

(0003) [0001]

(0006) [0001]

...

Edit the text file, change the token you've identified from 0000 to 0001, save the file, then use symcmos to rewrite the settings into NVRAM

Restart and if you've done it correctly VT is enabled.

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FAIL

Crap like this...

I knew I wasn't alone in being pissed about this and I am glad to finally see it get some media coverage. I specifically bought a more expensive laptop so I could get a CPU with VT. Now that I actually get around to using the VT with the latest version of VBox I find it doesn't work. I think a class action suit is in order because they should have made buyers aware of this so they don't buy the laptop thinking it does VT when it doesn't! They need to release bios updates or something to fix this...

Huge fail for Sony and any other PC maker that cripples their PC.

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Silver badge
WTF?

Paranoid much?

I assume this is related to this:

http://arstechnica.com/security/news/2009/03/storm-over-intel-cpu-security-could-be-tempest-in-a-teapot.ars

In short, the exploit is possible, but only if you know the system specifically, right down to the memory register addresses, then set the exploit up, and it's *trechnically* possible to get it exploit arbitrary code.

But the chances of it happening in the wild, never mind to a widespread set of systems, they seem to think, is next to none at all - the tone of the artcile suggests you are more likely to be killed by your mobile setting of a massive fuel-air explosion at the local petrol station.

Seems like a bit of an overreaction to me. Especially as we are talking about Windows on these machines, which has many, mnay more exploits available to it.. Closing the stable doors after the horse has bolted? Arf.

Steven R

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Sony laptops are recommended by 4 out of 5 lawyers

who recommend class action suits for their clients who use laptops.

- ex Sony customer (3 Sony laptops, 0 working Sony laptops, three free class action memberships)

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Gold badge

Sounds like Sony to me...

This sounds like Sony to me! I got an old Vaio in at the surplus I worked at that would randomly shut down. Turns out *some* P3s would occasionally report a ridiculous temperature, like a 1000 degrees or something. Solution? A *3 byte* fix to the BIOS to just have it check the temp twice before it does an emergency shutdown, which every vendor implemented in one BIOS update or another. Oh except Sony -- Sony did not release a fix for the Vaio.

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Grenade

No more Sony Vaio notebooks for me!

I have a one-year-old Vaio notebook which also has virtualisation disabled. Fortunately I didn't have to pay for it, which is just as well.

To add to the fun, it also has a 10/100 rather than gigabit Ethernet port, which is simply nonsensical in a modern and otherwise well-specified machine. Oh yeah, and Sony's x64 Windows drivers are provided 'as is', not updated, and not officially supported. Just to really stick the boot in, you understand.

Apparently Sony's customers who buy the model I have deserve second-rate service because they only spent $1800 instead of $3000 on the machine.

If anyone from Sony is reading this, I just want to let you know... I will never buy or accept another Vaio machine. Ever again. You've lost me as a customer for life. I dissuade friends and colleagues from buying Vaio notebooks. I now also try to avoid other Sony brands as much as possible. Enjoy your $268 million operating loss, lads.

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Alert

names please! Which applications are effected?

Can anyone tell me which applications:

can run on Windows XP

cannot run on Windows 7

can run on Windows 7 if using Windows XP virtualisation

I mean, is this something I need to worry about?

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Silver badge

Wonderfull

Now it not only depends on the exact version of Windows if you can run an application or not, but also on the CPU, the BIOS and the BIOS settings.

Great work Microsoft! I cannot wait for the next version of Office where you disable TrueType in favour of printer specific fonts.

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Silver badge
Grenade

Oh dear

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Of course Sony are always up for this sort of jape. Always have been, always will be. Anybody stupid enough to buy a Sony product should enjoy taking it up the khyber pass because they inevitably will be, and sooner rather than later.

As for that line about VT where they stated they are "Very concerned that enabling VT would expose our systems to malicious code that could go very deep in the Operating System structure of the PC and completely disable the latter" well the mind boggles?

Surely, if they were concerned about such things they wouldn't ship their products with Windows on them in the first place because nothing says "hello" to malicious code like a Clueless Windows user armed with a style-over-substance laptop like a Vaio.

OK, so what was I doing? Oh, that's right.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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Silver badge
FAIL

Not News

Normal Sony behaviour. Move Along.

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Grrrrr

I'm no Sony fanboi, but I will buy some of their stuff occasionally. Specifically, a PS2 back in 2002 and and then a Z series in March this year. Needless to say, I am outraged! All I can say is they had better post a BIOS update.

The real pity is that I really love my VAIO Z. It is just the right size, it has really decent battery life, more than enough CPU and graphics grunt and the keyboard is a dream to type on.

Lastly, regarding this quote from their marketing wonk: "Very concerned that enabling VT would expose our systems to malicious code that could go very deep in the Operating System structure of the PC and completely disable the latter." -- The irony and the gall of such a comment coming from Rootkit Inc itself!

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Terminator

That is why

I will never buy Sony products for my computing needs... they are greedy irresponsible corporate denizens.... XCP anyone? Different Division, same corporate environment.

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Thumb Down

Sony Z VT switch off = brain switch off

I am one of the morons who bought the top of the line Sony Z with the intent to run some 64bit VMs on it. If Sony sugggests that there is no demand for VT on the Z series I'd suggest they should fire their marketing chief because he has no idea about the target group he punts these machines at (I give you a hint, its not your streetjunky flicking some emails and a couple rude blog posts a day).

My advise: Next time you buy a Sony just make sure the screen works! Perhaps someone at Sony get the brain dead idea to disable the grapics card and inssists that he believes you should be using a serial TTY.

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Er...

Why not just ship a frickin' BIOS update? Sheesh.

(Linux users who want to use KVM would appreciate this, too. Mind you, I'm about the only idiot left running Linux on a Sony these days, it seems.)

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Heart

Or...

You can run the patch on this page and alter your BIOS to enable VT on any VAIO.

http://feature-enable.blogspot.com/

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Thumb Down

Lucky Escape

I got very close to spending nearly £2500 on a top of the range Z series laptop. It was a great powerful laptop with a great screen and I thought it would be ideas for my needs as a very mobile developer. I use VMWare quite a bit to mock up servers, try other OSs etc though and luckily I noticed that VT is disabled. It was so hidden away in the literature I could have easily missed it though and made a very expensive mistake.

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Gates Halo

Typical.....

If you think Sony's response is inadequate- have a look at Acer/Gateway etc. Even top of the range laptops with x9100s/T9800s/T9600s have VTx disabled at a BIOS level. Thats also making an assumption that you can call that Insyde H2 Bios- a Bios at all.......

It should be relatively easy to rollout a BIOS flash that would enable VTx features (or at very least give the more tech savy customer the option of turning it on in the first instance..........

I've a rather nice 8930G paperweight- that is never going to run my legacy apps, unless I continue to dual boot (or triple boot) as I'm doing at present.

MS really needs to take the manufacturers to task on this........

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FAIL

No.

"Senior manager for product marketing Xavier Lauwaert blogged that Sony had not enabled hardware virtualization due to "very little if any requests until recently."

should instead be

"Senior manager for product marketing Xavier Lauwaert blogged that Sony had taken the time and effort, and spent money towards ensuring that hardware virtualization was disabled for these chips due to "very little if any desire to give customers more than Sony says they should want."

details, details. Turning off a chip feature via the BIOS is not "not doing more for the customer", but "doing more to give the customer less".

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Anonymous Coward

It can be enabled on some older VAIOs

I've enabled it on my SZ4 which is now running W7 with XP-mode.

http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=189228 explains how to do it for Napa/Santa Rosa-based VAIOs with a Phoenix BIOS using symcmos (you obviously do this at your own risk and may end up with an expensive door stop) but this doesn't include the newer Montevina-based FW/Z/SR/BZ/TT/AW/CS-series.

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FAIL

Typical

I'm not the first to point out that Sony just doesn't understand the minute details of running a computer hardware business. They're too focussed on consumer electronics and music publishing resulting in internal conflicts of interest.

I remember the fiasco with Sony laptop warranties years ago so much that I swear never to buy anything from Sony at all and looking at this article I feel validated in my choice.

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Grenade

This is why I do not buy Sony products.

I have not bought a single Sony product since the GDM-F400 monitor I got in 1999, and for good reason: Articles and stories like this. Sony just likes to crap on the consumer - and that is a poor incentive for anyone intelligent to buy their products or have anything to do with them.

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FAIL

Is see this...

...being hacked!

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not happy..

I recently bought one of the nice small and funky vaio laptops, I have been running Win7 nicely on it, then I wanted to try the latest virtual PC and realised that VT was no where to be found!!!!!!

not happy.... sort it out Sony, its probably just a bios update!!

While I am on this, a TPM chip would have been nice for bitlocker.

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mhj
WTF?

What?

"Very concerned that enabling VT would expose our systems to malicious code that could go very deep in the Operating System structure of the PC and completely disable the latter."

That's Bollocks.

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FAIL

And this, ladies and gentlemen

Is why I have never bought Sony since the superb WEGA TV of 2000. When it's not inventing its own (per)version of perfectly acceptable technology (yes, Memory Stick, I'm looking at you), it is actively locking down what users do with their own equipment (BluRay). Sony behaves like Apple but without the ability to make something better than what it is trying to emulate.

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fch
Headmaster

Blame Sony ? Better go shout at Intel !

When Sony disables VT-x on the Vaio-Z (and -SZ, and others ...) series, they only do what their overlords allow them to do.

Intel's Centrino-2 logo sticker is on all these models - and oh wonder, read the Centrino-2 spec from Intel, what do you find ? "Virtualization Technology" is listed as a feature - but one with the ominous "*" pointing to the footnote which says: We'll leave it to the vendor whether it's on or not.

Now contrast this with the Vaio-BZ series. They boast a VPro logo sticker. And they support VT-x. Why ? Answer again - Intel's spec for VPro - unlike Centrino-2 - lists virtualization support as non-optional. You want to put a VPro sticker on, you ship it with VT-x active. Sony wouldn't get the sticker if they'd disable it on the Vaio-BZ.

Who started this ? The known-to-be-anally-retentive vendor who wants to give customers as little control as possible over the devices they buy, or the enduser-unfriendly logo policy of Intel, which allowed this in the first place ?

All Intel needed to do is to say "you can use our <XXXXX> logo if you do not cripple functionality". If you let them get away with it, they will - just because they can.

Comrade Stalin - he got away with anything.

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Stop

jumpers

"Very concerned that enabling VT would expose our systems to malicious code that could go very deep in the Operating System structure of the PC and completely disable the latter."

Isn't this what jumpers were invented for, how about you pop off the jumper and you can get your virtualisation back.

If I want to scour the internet and collect every bit of malware I can find that's my own affair stop turning stuff off to protect me.

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Thumb Up

A silver lining, thanks to Microsoft

Yes, to Microsoft of all people. For making the VT feature important to the mainstream (ish), so vendors will eventually stop messing us about like this. (You can stop laughing now, there in the back.)

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Black Helicopters

and the winner is...

Sony.

What type of draconian anarchists are sony employing these days? They disable a vital technology which is widely publicised and for which many users would ordinarily have bought a sony viao.

Except in the real world when you block something, most users are tech savvy enough to click "download fix"

Anyhow the solution is already clear and in law since 1974.

Consumer protection ACT 1974 - goods sold must be fit for purpose, if people are buying sony products to use the NEW OS, and part of that is for compatibility then sony have a problem as a "reasonable person" and no one can deny reg readers are reasonable people would assume it would actually be able to work FULLY with the os.

Consumers are forever getting a raw deal, and like all brits we dont complain which is why they always get away with it- so use your rights as given by LAW and tell sony to provide you with the products you paid for.

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Gates Halo

names please! Which applications are effected?

Old shit.

"Sony - We can't do anything right." or maybe "Sony - We're a bunch of asshats."

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Sony is just like Apple

With Apple products, the quality is solid but massively overpriced. Essentially, you are paying more for the name.

With Sony products, the quality is solid but massively overpriced. Essentially, you are paying more for the name.

You can get so much for so much less by going with another company. Even HD DVD did more than Blu-Ray until Blu-Ray released profile 1.1. For the money you spend on Sony, you can get a far superior product at the same price point with someone else. This applies to everything Sony makes.

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Gates Halo

So..

If it's a risk; then put the option in the bios, disable by default and require the user to activate it with a pin found in their documentation.

That way the user takes responsibility, not the supplier.

Dammit now they pull this shit after all the hassle I've gone through getting Sony laptops in for the exec's where I work :(

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can't be bothered today..

Sony involved in "screwing their customers over" shock....

Sony's credo...

If there is an existing working format we promise to wrap it in a proprietry format and charge a fortune for it.

if there are agreed standards for any given format,we promise to re-invent that format in a proprietry version and then charge a fortune for it.

I have never understood why anyone would buy Sony kit.

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Coffee/keyboard

And Apple is overpriced

Everyone hammers on Apple for being too expensive, and too proprietary. Sure, compared to bottom end cheap plastic Dell and HP configurations, and stipping out any of the "bonus" hardware features a Mac comes with, looking purely at CPU, Memory, Disk, Screen, and Graphics (even ignoring things like Wireless N, Bluetooth, webcame and more), you can often find a "comprerable" Dell at a lower price. However, when you look at not just base specs, but all the other features of the class of machine (build quality, port connectivity, wireless options, battery life, and weight, but still not including giimick features like backlit keyboards), Apple often comes out the cheaper machine in the end. Factor in software for basic home media purposes (photo management, home movie editing, CD/RW software) and compare it to a machine capable of supporting Vista Ultimate (the only valid comparrison for OS X's feature set), the Apple can beat the Dell on price in every single machine category. You can NOT blame Apple for not offering bargain basement models as anything one would want to do on a home media computer can't be done on $300 cheapo boxes that have no hardware graphics, and Apple simply doesn't care about people who only surf the web and send e-mail, they're in Apple's opinion not PC customers but "netbook" or "web appliance" customers, a category Apple has no interest in due to both low profit and high support costs (users who buy $400 machines typically cost more to support than users who are well informed and buy more capable systems).

At the other end of the spectrum is Sony and Toshiba. Companies who's wares are so proprietary, often you can't even install the Windows disk directly to the machine, but you MUST have Sony's specific install media to either "prep" the machine before you install windows, or you need to simply use their pre-imaged copy, and you can only install the copy of Windows they provide, and then upgrade to another version, if you're licky enough for them to offer drivers for it. Their machines are a bit prettier than others (still not as attractive as Apple, but that's a personal opinion), and come with tons of gimmicks installed, but in the end, they're just overpriced, proporietary systems. Sony is notorious for having issues with overheating (not getting "hot" necessarily, but using a thermal envelope to tight the CPU is regularly downclocked automatically to compensate). They use a lot of cheap plastic slimline components that break easily, non standard connectors, weak hinges, flimsy screen support structures (making screens prone to cracks), and for as much as they pack into their machines, they actually offer very few if any options. A model comes one way, if you want something different, pick a different model.

Sony also LOVES to use non-standard RAM chips, making memory upgrades cost small fortunes, and they make system upgrades extremely difficult, requiring seasoned pros to open notebooks to replace HDDs without breaking things. Repair costs out of warranty are off the charts compared to other manufacturers.

Sony also loves disdableing embeded features. VT, HT, and other chipset features are often disabled. They'll often do this to have a justification between their business line and retail line, or to show more dramatic performance differences bettween 2 chips that don't really differ that much in GHz numbers to justify multi-hundred dollar differences in price.

I supported multiple businesses (and for a while years ago retail customers) who had Sony and Tochiba systems. They were a nightmare to support, allways took longer to repair, or took much more trouble to get re-installed (especially if the custoemr failed to make the backup disks for the OS partition when Sony stopped shipping disks with the machine itself).

Sony makes crap, and charges a $200 "sony tax" just for the brand name. They're the Tommy Hilfiger of the electronics world.

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FAIL

Nothing like some Sony Hate to liven upa Friday afternoon

The irony is, most of the Sony hating chavs have inferior products and just wish they had the Sony versions...

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WTF?

NP, I'll buy a Dell then

Dell will -because the NHS are still using legacy applications on new PC's with XP fresh installs.

ie Damn software is old for these young varmints, eg: Cerner Millennium (aptly named) just being released in London and the South.

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@Adam Williamson

I'm surprised you got Linux working on a Sony. Sony likes to have propriety drivers that drives people bat shit .

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Joke

Well...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfokurUmoro

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Lio

Patch for Sony Vaio with AMI aptio BIOS

I successfully followed the procedure described on this blog : http://vaioubuntu.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/vt-xvmx-virtualization-patch-for-sony-vaio-fw/

The automatic patch has been written by Igor Levicki, it only works with AMI Aptio BIOS.

Worked on my Sony Vaio VGN-SR19XN which is now happily running virtual machines using VT instructions on an ubuntu host.

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Happy

VT bit working on Sony Z21

Hi,

I just wanted to thank Anne-Lise Pasch above for the pointer to enable the VT bit on Sony VAIO's.

I owe you a glass of your favourite beverage at the very least for that tip.

I reluctantly bought the Z21 because it was the best spec laptop for my needs. I knew the VT bit was locked but I figured someone would crack it eventually even if Sony didn't enable it in a BIOS update. Finally today my google alert came up trumps.

The patch is very easy to use so long as you have a suitable USB flash drive and from what I can tell is unlikely to trash the laptop as it doesn't modify the BIOS.

A very happy Vaio owner - no thanks to Sony!

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Linux

Pfft.

Sorry if I step on a few toes with what i'm about to say, but Sony VIAO? you asked for it when you walked out of the store with that piece of corporate market spin garbage. Those things were invented to look shiny on some bigwig cigar smoker's desk, not because it works so well but because it's too expensive!. You should have bought a mid-range IBM/Lenovo or HP Business Notebook instead. Would have saved you quite a bit of money (not to mention frustration), too.

Oh, @MarkOne:

Not a chav, but do dislike Sony seeing how their products have gone from good to shit the past decade.. An IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad T61p inferior?.. my (VT-enabled) notebook can beat up your notebook :P

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Heart

Yay Mikey

Glad it helped!

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Anonymous Coward

Concerned?

If they're really concerned about security, they wouldn't sell products running Windows.

After reading this, please go and check that you can still lock and unlock your house front door; the lock manufacturers might have disable it --- for security reasons.

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WTF?

Same issue with Gateway Laptops

I have a Gateway P6860FX laptop and it has the same issue; no option to enable VT-x in BIOS. I can install a x64 OS, but I cannot use any x64 virtualzation programs: so no use for VirutalPC, VMWare or VirutalBox on a $1,500 Gateway laptop either...

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