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No Windows 7 XP Mode For Sony Vaio Z Owners 198

Posted by timothy
from the for-your-own-good dept.
Voyager529 writes "While virtually every Core 2 Duo processor supports the hardware virtualization technology that powers the Windows 7 XP Mode, The Register UK reports that the Core 2 Duo processors in the Sony Vaio Z series laptops had the virtualization features intentionally crippled in the BIOS. Senior manager for product marketing Xavier Lauwaert stated that the QA engineers did this to make the systems more resilient against malicious code. He also stated that while they are considering enabling VT in some laptop models due to the backlash, the Z series are not among those being retrofitted."
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No Windows 7 XP Mode For Sony Vaio Z Owners

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  • by jkrise (535370) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @09:52AM (#29022799) Journal

    Senior manager for product marketing Xavier Lauwaert stated that the QA engineers did this to make the systems more resilient against malicious code.

    If they don't like Windows XP they can say so. Calling it malicious code will piss off Microsoft no end.

  • It's Sony (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @09:52AM (#29022801)
    Hey, it's Sony. What kind of customer support did you expect.
    It's not like they've got a long history depicting a care for their customers, rootkits being only 1 example.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It's not like they've got a long history depicting a care for their customers, rootkits being only 1 example.

      lately, sony is the posterboy for 'do evil and lie about it'.

      but they weren't always this way. 20 yrs ago they were the pinnacle of mid-fi consumer electronics. sometimes they even made high-end items but mostly they were comfortable making GOOD gear at an ok price.

      fast forward to when sony got 'confused' about what business they are in: is it music software (and movies) or hardware that lets you w

      • "They" (Score:3, Insightful)

        by StreetStealth (980200)

        Trying to characterize the modern Sony in any meaningfully consistent way is an exercise in futility. Sony, like any major Japanese company, has always existed in a number of fairly distinct units or "silos," but in their present incarnation, they are spread across such a wide variety of markets that it's almost a coincidence they bear the same brand name.

        Sony BMG, obviously, is the most consumer-unfriendly, as well as the least market-savvy. The rootkit debacle of four years ago has stayed with the tech co

  • CD rootkits (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    They probably want to protect their customers from Rootkits that some manufacturers put on their CDs: http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/10/31/2016223

  • flash (Score:5, Insightful)

    by socsoc (1116769) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @09:53AM (#29022839)
    If only there was some way to replace the BIOS, with some sort of flashing... I'm sure at some point they'll be a alternative firmware for those people silly enough to think that Sony would embrace anything that wasn't one of their proprietary formats.
    • by langelgjm (860756) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @09:58AM (#29022895) Journal

      In other news, Sony has decided to disable the second core in many of its dual-core models. Senior douchebag Joe Schmo defended the decision, saying "Often the second core just allows people to run malware in the background without noticing it."

      Um, no thanks, Sony. How about you let your customers decide whether they want to turn off processor features?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by the_fat_kid (1094399)

        hey, my mother was a douche bag, you insensitive clod.

      • by Candid88 (1292486)

        Um, no thanks, Sony. How about you let your customers decide whether they want to turn off processor features?

        Surely, if their customers wanted it, Sony would give them the option. That's meant to be what's so good about our laissez-faire capitalist system!

        The only possible conclusion is that Sony customers must not want choice.

    • Re:flash (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chaxid (772696) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @12:25PM (#29024933) Homepage
      I actually reflashed my Vaio VGN-FW285J in order to enable Intel VT-x which was deliberately disabled by Sony. It irked me to no end that they disabled this feature, since I would not have bought the laptop if I'd known they'd disabled it. The procedure on how to reflash is on my blog, along with links on how to do it for Sony's other Vaio laptops (such as the "Z" series). The blog post is here: http://linux.com/community/blogs/sonys-crippled-intel-vt-support.html [linux.com] Credit should of course go to those fine folks who took the time to reverse engineer the BIOS, such as Igor Levicki who did this for the FW series' AMI BIOS. I hope Sony realizes they are making a big mistake.
  • Since DOS died the BIOS has been little more than a glorified POST. So why can't the OS just enable any features that the BIOS doesn't? Its not like any modern OS uses the BIOS once its up and running anyway - just some information the BIOS may have provided which the OS can double check for itself anyway.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:02AM (#29022957)

      Since DOS died the BIOS has been little more than a glorified POST. So why can't the OS just enable any features that the BIOS doesn't? Its not like any modern OS uses the BIOS once its up and running anyway - just some information the BIOS may have provided which the OS can double check for itself anyway.

      IIRC the BIOS sets the CPU VT flag on powerup (ie, disabled) - once flag is set, it can't be cleared until next cold boot. However, I have an SZ series, there are tools out there to modify the bios settings to not set the flag (it works), I've successfully got linux KVM running :D (following http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=189228)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hadlock (143607)

        Yeah I was going to say, this sounds like a job for a hex editor, 10 minutes, and a guy who understands basic x86 assembly code.

    • by ripnet (541583) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:07AM (#29023011)

      It matters because the way the VT tech works is that its disabled by default in the CPU, and is (usually) enabled by the BIOS. The reason you cant (usually) turn it on after the OS has booted is because the register used to turn it on (the MSR) has a lock-bit, which once set prevents any changes to the VT status until power is removed from the CPU.

      BIOS's that simply ignore the VT enable stuff are less of a problem, because its possible to set the VT tech on, and lock it on (by writing 5 to register 3A) within the OS using /dev/msr (linux) or cpuinfo (windows). The Mac Pro (early 2008) behaves like this. This is obviously bad for security, as the malware can simply enable it!

      BIOS's that deliberately disable VT will set the register to 1 (vt off, lock on), turning off, and locking off the VT stuff. There is no way I know of to defeat this situation (short of disassembling the BIOS and 'fixing' it).

      Some BIOS's even have the code to turn it on, but it is only triggered if a CMOS register is set to a certain value and there is no UI on these BIOS's to set that CMOS register. I believe some Sony BIOSs are like this, but am unsure.

      The best ones of course allow you to turn it on in the BIOS - which is why Sony are talking BS when they say its for security. They only need to ship it turned off, and allow the users to turn it on at their own risk.

      I understand that it IS a genuine risk (bluepill?) in that a hypervisor can install itself UNDER the OS layer, and then filter what the OS sees, invisible to the user (otherwise the virtualization is broken).

      Thats why.

      ps. apple ignored a bug report I made about the way the Mac Pro works... i guess its kinda understandable because it seems all MacOS virtualization products just turn it on using the MSR as needed.

  • Pfft (Score:5, Funny)

    by Houndofhell (1480889) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @09:57AM (#29022881)

    ::Sony BIOS SCREEN::

    Virtualization: Disabled
    Complimentary Rootkits: Enabled

  • ...because we already know Sony is evil as hell and we don't buy their laptops.

    And anybody who went and forgot that lesson deserves whatever abuse Sony heaps on 'em.

  • by Renegade88 (874837) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @09:59AM (#29022917)
    The virtual technology extensions of my Lenovo Thinkpass T400 has also been intentionally crippled. Sony isn't the only company making bad decisions with higher-end laptops.
    • Were they intentionally crippled, or just disabled by default? There's a big difference.

      • Crippled. One can't turn on the feature, seems to be an issue with the BIOS. If VT extensions worked on the Lenovo Thinkpad T400, why would Lenovo turn this feature off by default? They wouldn't, unless they had a technical reason (e.g issue) to do so.
        • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

          VT extensions work with my T60p, though it's of course disabled by default in the BIOS (that is the sane default...)

          It'd be lame as hell if T400's really couldn't enable it.

    • My Acer Aspire 2930 laptop (Intel Core2Duo CPU) has the VT extensions disabled at BIOS level. Don't buy this model, and be aware of buying other models from Acer.

      For sure I will not buy anything from Acer. In addition to the VT %$%$$%-ing, the laptop VGA output it is not properly shielded because of poor design, and produces a signal with a bit of flickering (to get a digital DVI output you have in addition to spend over 125 € for a "Easyport IV" dock station).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by zdzichu (100333)

      Are you sure? My T400 (bought year ago) have VT switch in BIOS from day one. My earlier z61t hadn't, and required over a year of email exchange to get VT toggle in new BIOS.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by Hyppy (74366)
      You're full of crap. As you posted further down the chain, you don't even have the password to get into your BIOS, because it belongs to your COMPANY.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Renegade88 (874837)
        True, but as I also posted, I searched the internet for an answer and numerous people not able to enable these features even with access to the BIOS. They had contacted Lenovo directly (in fact, it was a Lenovo support site) and were promised a solution (updated BIOS) and it didn't come.

        What I can personally verify is the VT extensions are disabled. From what I saw on the Lenovo site, it's not possible to enable this without a non-existant upgraded BIOS. I can't explain why some people with T400's have
  • Linux BIOS Project? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mwilliamson (672411) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:00AM (#29022921) Homepage Journal
    Can the bios be re-flashed with something more useful?
  • I'd like to know if this is a purely commercial move or if there is actually technical merit to it ? I doubt this move actually will drive up sale but I think there is a case that older codes can be security problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Most likely, they are using VT support as a price discrimination tool. Disable it to make a model "Low end" enable it to make the model premium.

      In particular, with recent intel setups, intel's "Vpro" remote management widgetry depends on VT(and a bunch of other intel sauce). Disabling that is an excellent way to produce a line of systems that will appeal to individuals and smaller businesses, that you can sell cheaply to capture that cost sensitive demographic, that enterprise IT won't touch with a 10 fo
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:03AM (#29022967) Homepage Journal

    "Senior manager for product marketing Xavier Lauwaert stated that the QA engineers did this to make the systems more profitable by creating an artificial differentiation we can use to charge more money for basically the same thing."

    • Sounds like, if you want to use VT, they will sell you a "different" laptop model, for probably 25-50% higher price, which is the exact same laptop with a BIOS that doesn't disable this feature.

  • go to hell Sony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pak9rabid (1011935) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:10AM (#29023045)
    This is exactly why I don't buy Sony products, whether it's a computer, camera, music, etc. Consumers have been burned by them enough times with their retarded proprietary formats, lawsuits, rootkits, and just an overall blatent disrespect for consumers that I'm surprised anyone buys their crap anymore.
    • anyone who buys a COMPUTER from sony deserves what they get.

      what I'm guessing is that they locked the virtualization so that THEIR process is the root and all the user stuff is below that, not even knowing they are inside a VM.

      sony is expert at rootkits. this all makes sense, in a disturbed sony kind of way.

      "friends don't let friends buy sony". its never been more true.

  • When was the last time that a hardware fault contributed to malware on a typical PC that there are many thousands of varieties (as in, not a mobile device, and not a Mac, because there are only a few models of those). In 99.999% of malware cases they are flaws in the OS, user or programs. Not a flaw in the CPU, motherboard, RAM or monitor. And really Sony, why disable a feature that a lot of people might have bought a high-end laptop to have that in it? Not that I know why anyone would even think about buyi
    • You don't understand. They aren't protecting against a fault in the hardware; they're protecting against a feature in it. And this feature is not something that would only exist on a few machines. It exists on all modern Intel CPUs. The security community is concerned about this feature because it would allow rootkits/botnets to install in such a way that their detection is impossible via software. PoC code for such malware has been published, but we've yet to see it widely-used in the wild. That's only a m

      • So, instead of a malware loading up to use VT-x at boot (it has to get into memory somehow), it can load up and use SMM at boot. People with these concerns are the same people that would urge you to close and lock your windows at night, knowing full well you leave your front door unlocked and wide open, yet being too stupid to realize nobody's going to use the windows in the first place when the door's way easier!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:26AM (#29023287)

    Only 6 out of 11 of the 45nm Core2 duo chips support VT according to info on intel.com. That's not "virtually every".

    Not nitpicking for the sake of it, just don't want people to assume that the Core2 they're intending to buy supports VT. Best to check.

    • by bconway (63464)

      Thanks for posting this, it's too bad it's not higher up the page. There will be a big backlash when people figure out Intel has been using this as a price point and only the premium laptop chips can run XP Mode. "Sorry, you only spent $800 on your laptop? Buh-bye."

      • by Creepy (93888)

        Actually, it isn't hard to get a Vt-x enabled chip for $800 or less - for instance, as of this moment a Gateway M-6750 is $440 according to Pricewatch and has a T5550 (a Vt supporting CPU according to wiki [wikipedia.org]), but it also has integrated graphics and I'm not sure if the motherboard used supports virtualization (if the graphical chipset matches the motherboard chipset, then no). I've found in general, for machines under $1000 you get an either or choice with Intel - either a Vt-x enabled CPU and integrated gra

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mzs (595629)

      And in fact Sony did make Z series laptops with VT incompatible C2D chips (I know since my cousin has one) plus in some cases they used chipsets that do not support VT (or at least not easily with clever SMI hacking). I bet another concern is that buggy hardware on some of the Z series is made to work with System Management Mode (SMM) code in the BIOS, stuff that was never tested with VT.

    • by faragon (789704)
      Well, it could be also said that 9 out 10 "branded" laptops with VT-capable Core2Duo CPUs have that feature disabled because of their BIOS. The point it is not about CPUs lacking a feature, but CPUs with the feature, being cripped at BIOS-level. Example: Acer Aspire 2930 (I own one, with Intel Core2Duo P7350, which supports VT, but it is disabled at BIOS level, without the possibility of enabling in the BIOS menu). It seems that there are hacks for enabling it (1 [slashdot.org]), but involving BIOS reflash, which is, in m
  • by nweaver (113078) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:28AM (#29023315) Homepage

    Back in 2000, when Win2K was out and happy but the proles were stuck with Win98/ME, I decided I wanted a laptop.

    There was a cheap Sony laptop with Win98/ME on it that looked good to me and was on sale. I checked, there was a version of the same laptop with Win2K available, but it was a few hundred dollars more if you could FIND it, and the UC CS dept had a site liscence/arrangement for Win2K.

    So I figured, why not? Buy it at fry's, reinstall with a remotely tolerable Windows OS, be happy.

    Get the laptop, blow away the Win98/ME crap, put on Win2K, only to find out that Sony locks all the drivers with BIOS strings and the like so the drivers from the Win2K version won't install on any other notebook, even when the chipsets and everything are identical!

    Fortunately, Fry's had a good return policy. So rather than going hunting for manufacturer sites for drivers, I said, screw it, popped in the reimage disk, and restored it and returned it.

    A few weeks later, I bought an IBM notebook off a friend with PowerBook envy, much prefering the IBM site wher you put in the model # on the bottom and you get every driver for every OS variant, including Linux, in a nice neat grid...

    But even nearly a decade ago, Sony was gimping their laptops badly. Glad to see they are keeping THAT tradition alive...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vintagepc (1388833)
      They do this with desktop VAIOs too... We have one here at the office that the owner could not get to dual-boot Linux and Windows... in fact, the manual even states that if you dual boot, your machine's features will be crippled... So we made the smart choice, did a linux-only install.
      I think I speak for many of us when I say,
      "F*ck you, Sony!".
      • I would like to understand this in much, much more detail. How does it know you're dual booting?
    • by spongman (182339)

      disclaimer: I used to work for Sony.

      That said, NEVER, EVER buy a Sony laptop.

      They intentionally make it difficult/impossible to change the operating system. while they could never get away with building machines that die after 3 years, they do essentially this by forcing you to buy a new machine when a new OS ships. and good luck finding up-tp-date drivers for the various built-in devices.

      a typical conversation I've had about this:

      THEM: look at this new Sony laptop, it's so shiny! should i get it?

      ME: no

      THEM

  • Come from the marketing teams? Senior manager for product marketing Xavier Lauwaert http://www.b2blog.com/2006/dt040319.gif [b2blog.com]
  • by GreenEnvy22 (1046790) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:46AM (#29023549)
    The first line of this summary is quite wrong. Intel has LOTS of Core2Duo's that do not support Intel VT. A quick look through their processor matrix will confirm this. Still, it's common practise for laptop manufacturers to disable things like VT on their consumer models. My Toshiba satellite has it disabled (not changeable in BIOS), but the pro version of it (same mainboard and cpu) has the option. I'm sure there is some way to get it working via a hex editor or something, but then we're into voiding warranties (if the bios gets fubared).
  • AMD vs. Intel (Score:3, Informative)

    by Britz (170620) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @11:13AM (#29023901) Homepage

    Lots of cheap Intel processors don't even have Intel VT, while most of the AMD processors in the same price range have it enabled. While I like the fact that some of the new Pentium processors run really cool, I would never consider buying a new processor without virtualization support. Yet most of the current cheap machines (laptops and boxen) that come with Intel use processors without virtualization. Kinda limits your choices. But then again I always liked AMD better.

  • Toshiba does this on some of their laptops, too, including mine, as I discovered recently. It's there as a bios option, but no way to change it from "disabled".

    I hope Toshiba decides to provide an update to re-enable the VT, but so far they haven't made a statement about it at all, AFAIK.

  • This is the same crap as cell phone companies disabling features on those phones. You read a great review of a new cell phone (or CPU), only to find out that when you buy it from this manufacturer that it won't do that.

    Now as to why Sony will enable it on some laptops, yet not others, truly boggles the mind.
  • Perhaps... (Score:3, Funny)

    by chaboud (231590) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @12:11PM (#29024761) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps there is already some hypervisor running that we don't know about?

    As a Z owner who is planning on upgrading to Windows 7, this pisses me off. That machine was nearly as expensive as my mac... my mac!

    It's worth noting that, scarily enough, it *was* still cheaper than my MBP, and the MBP has all sorts of issues running Windows. Sadly, the one ideal computer to run all OS's is actually three and a roll of duct tape.

  • Even models that are supposed to support this mode. Why take the chance?

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @01:23PM (#29025797) Homepage Journal

    If Sony is disabling features to make their laptops more resiliant against malware attacks, can we expect them to offer support and resolution to malware attacks that occur because of their hardware/BIOS?

    I bet not. So why not leave alone that which you are not willing to fully support anyways?

    On another note, Intel (amd probably AMD) mess with the VT features, scattering them all over the processor product lines. You need a frakking CPA to work through the permutations and find the processor(s) that have all the features and performance you want or will pay for. !Simple. !Friendly. Evil.

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