Time to go with a fresh copy of XP. There was no system recovery CD to be found, and looking back, this was probably one of those times where you get recovery on a hard drive partition instead of a CD. Oh well, ainít hindsight great?
Suffice to say I pulled out a generic WinXP upgrade CD from my stash, and decided that one 60G partition was superior to the 20/40 split already on the drive. Did that and everything came up running but the sound, also was annoyed to discover that the video could not be set to higher than 800 X 600. After poking around on the Sony support part of their website I found the specs for the machine. It uses a SiS7012 sound chip and a SiS740 graphics controller. A visit to the SiS website found the audio driver, and it works fine. Then downloaded the video chip driver, but when it tries to install it canít find the hardware! Downloaded the video driver from the Sony website with the same result. Got in touch with Sony support and was told the following:
* The version of XP supplied with the machine is a proprietary version
* Standard XP will not support the Sony driver
* Sony XP will not support the standard driver
* The motherboard video adapter will not automatically disable if you put a video card in a PCI slot. A user supplied video card can only be used as a secondary adapter. (There is no AGP on this model.) There is no hardware disable built in either (like a jumper).
Iím not sure I entirely believe the support explanation, but so far it checks out. Poking my head into the machine found Ď7S266-VSí silk-screened on the motherboard. Googling that took me to the website for ASUS, the Taiwanese manufacturer of the motherboard. The website shows model # 7S266-VM. Iím sure ĖVS just means a Sony version of the same thing, and I suspect that there is no hardware difference, just a custom tweaked BIOS to implement the annoying features described above.
I hate it when machines have proprietary tweaks. A friend who was at Conner Peripherals when they were a hard drive supplier to Compaq told me that the drives sold to Compaq had a special track with some sort of ID code on it. The machine would look for that code and refuse to use the drive if it didnít have it. Guess where you had to buy your upgrade. I avoid Compaq like the plague because of stories like that, dunno if their purchase by HP cured it. Maybe I should add Sony to the list.
Anyway, the Sony seems to be working fine except for the lousy video resolution. My thoughts are:
(1) Bite the bullet and purchase a Sony recovery CD, then reinstall yet again. Live with the proprietary tweaks.
(2) Do a hardware mod to disable the motherboard adapter (assuming that the BIOS will then accept the PCI card as the primary display). I can always put cuts and jumpers back like they were.
(3) Reflash the BIOS with the standard version, hopefully turning the VS back to the VM generic version. If I do that I sure would like a copy of the Sony version as insurance, but Iíd have to read it off the chip (or the area of memory that it is copied to for execution). I donít have a way to make that copy right off hand.
Iíd just as soon make the machine accept a PCI card. This would avoid sharing 32MB of main memory with the onboard video adapter, presumably boosting system throughput. It would also let me put in something better matched to the 1920 X 1200 the monitor is capable of.
What would you do? Thoughts?