The following tutorial on how to install Ubuntu and dual boot Ubuntu and Windows 7 is presented for educational purposes only, and no warranties are made as to its accuracy or reliability.
I spent countless hours trying to have a 3 boot system : PC-BSD, Ubuntu and Windows 7 and I can say that PC-BSD 8.2 and 9.0 is a no go for Sony Vaio. In the case of PC-BSD 9.0 beta there are some video drivers problems, while in the case of PC-BSD 8.2 the Ntfs partition are getting screwed ( I don’t know why, but I tried 3 times with same result ).
Sony Vaio S series comes with Windows 7 64-bit pre-installed and 4 Samsung ssd are configured in Raid 0 configuration. The system has one Recovery partition of 11Gb, another System Reserved 100Mb Ntfs partition that contains the boot files and a big partition for Windows 7 64 bit. In case of emergency the system can be restore easily by pushing the ASSIST button ( near power button ). If you are Windows fan and you don’t want to play with other OS-es this is perfect. Good and generous hardware, convenient recovery system – a dream. You should take care and save your Recovery partition because in the package that comes with the laptop you have only 2 Windows 7 32-bit Recovery DVD-s . It is a little out of reason to deliver a system on 64 bit with 32 bit recovery DVD, but if you backup your Recovery partition all will be fine.
So first and very important step is to backup the 11Gb Recovery Partition. You can find a bunch of free and/or commercial ghost programs to do this and you should definitely make the ghost image because once you touch the 100Mb partition, the Recovery partition is useless. If you are at this point, you will have to use the Recovery DVD, Restore the system to factory default, witch will repair the 100Mb partition, then restore the Recovery Partition from ghost and restore back Windows 7 64-bit.
Since the 100Mb partition is so important, the next smart step is to make a ghost image after this partition too. In case you do this, and problems happen, you don’t have to recover your system from DVD’s anymore (and spare a lot of time) just make one 11Gb Ntfs recovery partition that you recover from ghost image, one 100 Mb Ntfs partition that you recover from your ghost image and at this step you can use the ASSIST button to recover your system.
From my 2 days struggle I can say at this moment that touching the 100Mb partition will make the Recovery partition useless. Since I didn’t know the reason of using 3 primary partitions, though leaving no space for BSD or Linux which needs to be installed on primary partition, I erased it and got myself in a serie of problems where I couldn’t boot on windows anymore. While trying to recover the system using the Recovery partition, Windows returned the following “Windows cannot install on this hardware” error which will repeat if you try to restore again the system.
Tools needed : Usb Thumb-drive (the faster and larger the better), Yumi – a tool to install multiple ISO on the thumb-drive, Linux Mint(for gparted in order to resize your partitions), Ubuntu alternate ISO otherwise you won’t be able to install grub2 and Rescatux http://www.supergrubdisk.org/rescatux/ in case you have problems with grub ( you will have a menu on your stick named Super Grub2 Disk that have wonderful tools and will allow you to boot intro Windows or Ubuntu). Until now ( raid 0 ) I used PMagic which is a very nice portable distribution with a lot of useful tools.
Since I have been there there and found the solution for using partedmagic here is what you should do. Normally pmagic will boot without loading the soft-raid and so gparted will see the 4 sdd as empty drives.
To activate all dmraid disk arrays, the “dmraid -ay” command is used:
root@PartedMagic:~# dmraid -ay
root@PartedMagic:~# dmraid -sa -c
Now you can start gparted and you will see the raid drive and make any operation on it.
You can also start from Mint/Ubuntu live CD since bought of them load automatically the soft-raid and have gparted package.
I won’t cover the resizing partition part since is an easy going procedure, you just need to find gparted and make the necessary change. I want to mention that partitioning ssd is unbelievable quick and after installing Ubuntu I understood why Sony chose to install not one but 2 or 4 ssd in raid0. The 7200 hdd I have on my old system has an average of 60Mb/s transfer rate while the 4 ssd in raid 0 have an average of 800Mb/s which is amassing. You can check this video to see about what I am talking
Ssd vs Hdd
If you don’t touch the 100Mb Partition and don’t change the partitions order ( one partition that can be anything- this is where I installed Ubuntu, second the 100mb partition, third Windows, then doesn’t meter) everything will go smoothly. You can delete the Recovery partition ( on your own responsibility ) resize the partitions the way you want and the system will boot without any problem. As for me I resized the Recovery partition and format it EXT4 and start installing Ubuntu on it.
If you have the Sony Vaio hdd model than you can use the desktop distribution of Ubuntu, but in case you have the model with 2 or 4 ssd in raid0 you need to download the alternate distro (i386 or amd64) depending on your taste. Since there are problems with flash on amd64 distro and since you can install pae kernel that can see more that 2.4Gb of ram, I decided to go with the i386 distro. The fun part with alternate iso is that it is not as automated as the desktop one and you will have to make some manual configuration.
* don’t configure the network unless you know what you are doing. On my first attempt I have done so and the result was that I couldn’t connect to Internet with either wifi and cable. Better choose to make the config later
* Activate Serial ATA Raid chose YES
* don’t dismount /dev/sde since that is your thumb-drive ( my case ) and doing so the system cannot find the installing ISO.
* choose manual partition and select your root partition / ( I also chose my /home and /swap partitions as well ). Take care to mark down the name of the Raid disk because you will need it in order to configure Grub ( it should be something like isw_ifiblkkenn_Volume0 ) and it is located at /dev/mapper. I don’t understand why such a complicated name, why doesn’t Linux mount it automatically at /dev/dm0 in order to make the things less complicated … anyway.
* the most important step is the grub configuration, you will have to manual enter the name of the raid partition and it should look like this /dev/mapper/isw_xxxxxx_Volume0 . It is not important that your Ubuntu partition is on isw_ifxxxx_Volume0p1 or p2 etc…
If you manage to arrive at this point you have your system ready, dual boot with Windows 7 and Ubuntu. If you have more than 2 Gb of Ram and since you read this that should be the case, you can use Synaptic to install the kernel with PAE support and thou access 4,6 or 8 Gb of Ram on your laptop.
About BSD. At this stage I tried to install PC-BSD in the place of the 100mb partition ( after resizing it to 17Gb) and this experiment was a total fiasco since it destroyed the Windows partition and I had to take all the procedure from the beginning. I am a newbie on Linux and BSD and it is very likely that there is a solution to have the system up and running without the 100mb partition or with Windows 7 and BSD. If you have a better solution please let me know. I think that the 100Mb partition as primary partition is a waste and I would gladly lose it.
UPDATE . Installing Ubuntu 12.04 works seamless on Sony Vaio. The only thing you need to add is disable the touch-pad and switch off the Radeon discrete graphic.
This mini how-to is working for the following models VPCZ217GG, VPCSA28GG, VPCSA26GG, VPCSB19GG, VPCZ21AGX/B, VPCZ21TGX/X, VPCZ21SHX/X, VPCSA2BGX/BI, VPCSA2SGX/T, VPCSA2Z9E, VPCSB1A9E .