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No Windows 7 XP Mode For Sony Vaio Z Owners 198

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 Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @09:54AM (#29022855) Homepage

    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.

  • 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?
  • by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:19AM (#29023183) Homepage Journal

    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 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...

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:34AM (#29023381) Journal
    There are a few proof-of-concept rootkits that work by installing a thin hypervisor in hyperprivileged mode and letting the OS carry on in ring-0, accessing hardware directly but being completely exposed to any code running in the hypervisor. This is virtually undetectable to the OS, so it makes sense to disable VT-x in the BIOS and enable it only when the user knowingly installs a hypervisor. It doesn't make a great deal of sense to not permit the user to enable it though.
  • by Renegade88 ( 874837 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @11:29AM (#29024131)
    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 VT extensions disabled. I doubt my company's IT dept. has a VT policy and decided to disable it by default, but I can surely confirm this easily.

    Thanks for a classy response.
  • by SBrach ( 1073190 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @12:03PM (#29024649)
    My wife bought a Vaio against my advice. I have had vaios before and knew they were overpriced even though the hardware is typically very nice. The laptop is a Core 2 Duo with 4GB of Ram and was slower then her Celeron M gateway with 1GB of ram, both running Vista. Once I wiped the Sony and installed vista ultimate 64bit (and now 7 ultimate 64bit) it was much faster. I started trying to fix the sony image but there was too much crap to uninstall and too many stupid settings. Like who really wants 10% as a max CPU setting when on battery.
  • Re:It's Sony (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @12:05PM (#29024673)

    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 watch/listen to them? they don't even know, themselves. they lost their focus and edge in the industry.

    now they are a joke. but they didn't use to be. sad to see what USED to be a great company slide into evilness.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @01:36PM (#29026027) Journal
    Did you read the linked paper, or just the Slashdot summary? They explicitly state in the paper that they are not considering hypervisors that actively attempt to avoid detection, only those that passively try. Of the points they list that would allow detection of the hypervisor:
    • CPU discrepancies do not apply to hypervisors that use VT-x; they detect instruction-rewriting VMMs like VMWare.
    • Off-chip Discrepancies do not apply to a hypervisor that is only running one guest and is allowing it direct access to the hardware, as a malicious hypervisor would.
    • They list their own potential countermeasures for page table-based attacks. I'd also add that if I were designing a malicious hypervisor I'd map its code into a region of physical memory and trap the BIOS call that reported the BIOS size.
    • Timing anomalies also don't apply to a hypervisor which permits direct hardware access. For example, I would make my malicious hypervisor trap the hlt instruction so that it ran in the background while the OS was doing power saving and jumped back to the OS when it registered an interrupt. This would enable it, for example, to scan RAM for passwords and secret keys and drop them into the network interface while the OS thought it was in power saving mode.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!