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General Tips and Tricks

Booting troubles (aka "the reboot problem")

With APIC (don't confuse with ACPI!) enabled, the machine hangs when rebooting (HDD led is on and after about a minute a "keyboard error" is reported and the machine has to be turned off by pressing the power button for 4 seconds. Disabling APIC in kernel (Processor type and features->Local APIC support on uniprocessors) or using the kernel parameter noapic cures this nasty problem.

Bios Settings

You can't really do much in this bios setup, except for changing the boot order. To enter setup, press F2 while the SONY logo is displayed.

Harddisk

The Hitachi DK23CA-20, which is built into my FX405 makes rather loud clicking noises every few minutes. There is a firmware update available, which can be found on the Dell homepage. Unfortunately Sony does not provide this update. The file can also be downloaded from my download page.
You need windows to create the DOS-Diskette, or download this image and write to disk:
bunzip2 hdd_firmware_update.img.bz2 ; dd if=hdd_firmware_update.img of=/dev/fd0.
Then boot from the floppy and follow the instructions.
Meanwhile, I've replaced mine with a 40GB Toshiba, which worked fine. But - after a BIOS update (in fact the sony people downgraded the bios after a mainboard change), the geometry was different.
Jens Neu told me, that he has a 60GB Hitachi harddisk running in his FX401 and it works.

CPU temperature

On Alexander Jordan's page there is a gkrellm plugin, that shows current temperature. To use it, put it in any directory and start gkrellm --plugin /tmp/cputemp.so. I've put mine into ~/.gkrellm/plugins, but it wasn't detected automatically. The --plugin option works, though. I've also set the executable bit, but don't know if this is necessary.

Mute/Volume keys

With Fn+F3/F4 you can mute the speakers or set their volume. I don't know what these keys do, if you are using windows, but with IceWM I assigned them to a script that mutes/unmutes the speakers, or start a mixer application.
Put the following lines in your ~/.Xmodmap
keycode 176 = XF86AudioMedia
keycode 160 = XF86AudioMute
Then edit ~/.icewm/keys (or /etc/X11/icewm/keys) and put the following lines there:
key "XF86AudioMute" /home/markus/bin/muting
key "XF86AudioMedia" gamix
After killall -HUP icewm (or restarting X) you can run gamix by pressing Fn+F4.

Sony support

I've had some issues with my notebook. After about 13 months the harddisk was four times louder than normal (too bad for those, who didn't buy additional warranty! But I did :) I could convince them, that this is a reason to replace it, although it was fully intact otherwise. A short time after the harddisk was replaced, I sold it and bought a 40GB instead of the 20GB. This didn't make any problems with the Sony service (when I had it there the next time), but I told them to keep my larger harddrive and not to replace it with the original 20GB!
The next thing was the modem. It hung the whole PC under windows, and the linux driver said, that it couldn't find it. It was replaced together with my mainboard (although not when I wanted to get my "fixed" notebook from service - I had to show them that the machine crashes). The mainboard must have had a temperature damage in the area of the graphics card. Sometimes the machine just didn't boot any more (black screen, no backlight, sometimes beep codes - 1 long, 2 short). It was very sporadic in the beginning and also caused the machine to freeze when moving it. The guys at Sony also replaced the CPU - don't know if that was really necessary.
The next thing was the latch of my display. Somehow it was broken some day (I really have no idea why!). I've already bought a new back plate that covers the connectors - nearly 15 Euros(!), so I told them that I don't want to pay more than 10 Euro for this latch. I was really surprised - only 2.57 Euro! Changing that part is 10x more work, but still ... I didn't ask much after I heard that price :-)