Sony VAIO all-in-one RAM conflict

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Pat

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Hi:

Got my Sony VGCVA10G the other day.  This is my second all-in-one multimedia VAIO.  I like them.  The screen could have been narrowed a bit by putting the speakers below, but that's about the only cosmetic issue I have with it. 

The machine sells with 2x512mb RAM modules in the two available slots.  I told the salesman I wanted to upgrade it to 2gb and would buy the computer only if the RAM were upgradeable.  He insisted they tested it a lot and it's upgradeable.  The manual gives instructions for upgrading the RAM.  However, when I tried the 2x1gb modules I got from Memory Solutions in it, they don't work together.  They work separately in either slot.  They each work with one of the original 512mb modules in either slot.  The 2gb are recognized and report by the BIOS.  But Windows refuses to start, even in safe mode, if I have the 2x1gb in the two slots.

I am exchanging the RAM for two more modules.  The specs were given correctly to Memory Solutions.  In fact, I checked my model of computer with them and bought RAM they and several other webistes said was correct for the model.  Sony's info, including their customer service and tech people, was a lot less helpful with the exact RAM to buy.  A couple sites, including Memory Soltuions, tells you to double check by giving them your make and model, which I did.  It printed up right with the invoice.  Can't go wrong.  Right?  But the 2gb don't work.

So I spoke with Sony sales, who insisted it does work and he was going to contact various people.  He was supposed to call me Wednesday.  I have left two messages, neither of which has been returned. 

I spoke with Sony Tech who said 2gb DOESN'T work, and the two slots can take only 512 modules.  I don't understand, since each slot took either 1gb module just fine, and Windows booted just fine with the single gb module.  And, as noted above, Windows also booted with either 1gb + either 512mb modules in the two slots.  I did change the pagefile to reflect the 1.5gb at the time. 

One thing did happen one time.  I set the pagefile for the 2gb.  Then I shut down and changed to the 2gb.  I was able to get into safe mode that one time, but when I checked the pagefile, the system needed to reboot for something, and I never got back into safe mode.

The return modules will arrive in Chicago tomorrow.  I hope it will be no more than a week till the replacement modules arrive.  If they work, great.  If they don't, and nobody can figure out what's wrong, I'll keep one and return the other and live with 1.5gb. 

Does this sound like planned obsolescence to max out the media pc at only a gb of RAM?  This machine is made for editing TV shows, movies, videos, etc.  I already reached an out of memory error trying to copy a Microsoft knowledge base topic to Word last week. 

Any suggestions what else to test or what might be limiting this thing would be welcomed and used.  I wish the fix were as easy as a BIOS upgrade.  No idea why Setup shows the BIOS recognizes the 2gb, but Windows just can't take it.  I've upgraded RAM many times before without having to do a thing to Windows to accept it.  Including in the last Sony VAIO all-in-one when I upgraded the 2x256 to 2x512.  That was a couple years ago when a gb was considered a lot.  Seems like the VAIO has progressed backward. 

--pat
 

Ned

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One possiblity is the video memory is mapped to the high end of the 2GB address space, and conflicts with the RAM.  Check the BIOS settings for Video settings and see if there are any options to change that mapping.  Since it works with 1.5GB this is a definite possiblity.

The page file has no interaction with the actual RAM.  I run 2GB RAM and no page file and rarely have low memory problems.  I suspect your ability to boot to safe mode that one time was a coincidence.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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I subscribe to Ned's idea. I'm guessing that memory addressaility is limited to 2 GB on that machine and Video Ram (or perhaps some other chunk of non-Ram memory) is mapped into that space so that you can't actually have a full 2 GB of Ram. It's pretty much standard for video to be mapped that way, but most systems allow for that and are carefl to specify a max RAM amount that works.  Strange that Sony customer service is not more aware of that, but it sounds as though the one tech you spoke to may know that.
 

Pat

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Sony sales now tells me they think there's a problem with Windows XP Media Center that requires an upgrade.  I did all the MS Update downloads and installations this morning, but I don't have the replacement modules here to test.  None of the updates sounded like a fix for this problem.  Sony sales hasn't gotten back to me with the fix. 

Why would they take up memory that could be usable on the computer for video memory mapping?  Any idea what I'm looking for to tell where video memory is mapped?  And is there some way to remap?  I wonder if Sony will be able to put out a firmware fix to correct this. 

Sony sales told me they've run this computer with 2gb of RAM. 

Interesting learning experience.

--pat
 

Pat

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Gary:  Bummer.  I checked the BIOS.  There's very little in it that I can change.  Maybe Sony will do a BIOS update to fix the problem.  I'll be on the phone with them.

The support tech was in a hurry to leave for the day (he kept commenting) and the information he gave was pure guesswork, so I'll try to reach somebody else.  The people telling me I can use the 2gb are sales.  Time is money to them, so it's difficult to get calls returned, and I hate to take up their time with something Tech should be handling.

--pat
 

Pat

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I reached another Sony tech support person who actually looked into the problem with the RAM upgrade.  He acknowledged they've been having the problem with RAM upgrades on this system.  First step is to try out the two replacement modules when they arrive in the mail.  If that doesn't work, he said they've been able to accomplish the upgrade by running recovery with the new modules in place.  Sony puts all the recovery material on the hard drive, so I turn off the computer, swap out the RAM, turn it back on, and keep tapping F10 until Recovery starts.  He said if that doesn't fix it, there's a motherboard problem.

I'm relieved to hear that the tech guy who lectured me that it was 5 in the afternoon and his and his technicians' quitting time and that the computer was spec'd at 1gb RAm and could not be upgraded and then emailed me that Sony can't be responsible for what third party sellers tell me (I bought it through Sony's Sony Style inhouse sales, which I guess he forgot) was wrong.  Oh, well, forunately Sales kept insisting the upgrade will work, so I'm glad I didn't take no for an answer.  Just hope I don't have to replace the motherboard.

Now to do a third installation of all my software and configuration.  It's a good thing that's something I enjoy.

--pat
 

Pat

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Got replacement RAM modules.  Windows booted fine, and everything worked great until...

The first two modules just caused the computer to crash every time I tried to boot.  The replacement modules, which had physically smaller chips, worked beautifully until I got into Media Center and started "Live TV."  Here's the sequence.

1.  2gb RAM in the machine.  When I started Live TV in Media Center, I immediately tried to change a channel, and the system froze.  Had to hard reboot with the power button.  An error report was generated to Microsoft.  When I sent it, Microsoft posted a page that said the error was so bad, the report was corrupted, which, they said, was an indicator of a serious problem.

2.  Tried "Live TV" again with the 2gb.  This time I didn't try to change a channel, but I did touch the volume button.  The system crashed by playing the same two words from a commercial over and over till I did a hard reboot with the power button.  No error report to Microsoft generated.

3.  Tried "Live TV" again with the 2gb.  This time I didn't touch anything.  Just let it play.  It lasted between 30 and 60 seconds and then the PC turned itself off and rebooted.  The error report to Microsoft this time generated a reply from MS that said there was a bad driver.

4.  Removed one gb of RAM and replaced it with 1/2 gb.  Total RAM 1x1gb + 1x.512mb.  Booted up.  Got into "Live TV."  It worked for several channel changes, volume changes, for a couple minutes and then computer froze.  Rebooted.  Error report to MS was bad driver, same as #3.

5.  Removed 1/2gb RAm and left in 1gb module.  Total RAM 1x1gb.  Computer wouldn't even go on.  I think maybe the remaining 1gb RAM module was not in tight enough and should have been reseated.  It probably got bumped when the half gb was being removed.

6.  Replaced new RAm with original 2x512mb modules.  Everything worked fine.  "Live TV" has been good ever since.

I have not tested all my software with the 2gb.  I don't know if the TV tuner is part of the ATI Radeon card, or if it's a separate module.  I have done all Sony and MS updates as of 5/27.  I'm told that Sony engineers can't reproduce the problem, but none of us knew that it occurs with Media Center's Live TV.  Maybe with nothing else.  BTW, I went through all the menu items in Media Center with the 2gb of RAM in place, and nothing caused it to crash except the TV tuner.

--pat
 

Pat

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Karl:  The display adapter is an ATI Mobility Radeon X700 (doesn't say "Pro").  Driver is 8.163.0.0, dated 8/9/05. 

I was on the ATI website tonight looking for info.  I don't think the Radeons have TV tuners, so I think that's on the motherboard or another card in the machine. 

ATI seems to have whole sections in Support devoted to Media Center.

I reached a tech savvy manager at SonyStyle Sales who is working with engineers to resolve this.  The first two RAM modules I got from memorysuppliers.com didn't work at all.  These two replacement modules work for everything except "Live TV."  I have a short window left in which to return the modules, but I expect eventually to be able to upgrade this RAM, so I don't want to return them if they are ok.  I assume that, as long as everything else looks good, it's not bad RAM modules, so I'll keep them.

I offered to give Sony engineers a VISA card number to borrow the RAM modules they are using, if they don't have the same Live TV problem.

--pat
 

Karl

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Pat,

There are newer drivers and software for your card. go here: https://support.ati.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=894&task=knowledge&folderID=27

Go to the appropriate section (high speed/low speed and download and install them in sequence. Note that there is one download that is for the x1000 only; you don't need it. May very well solve your problem.

Your card has either 128 or 256 MB storage, so it shouldn't be using video mapping at all.

If this doesn't work, submit a ticket to ATI directly or phone Tech Support from this page: https://support.ati.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=894
 

Pat

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Karl:  Thanks and will do all this.  The card has 256mb RAM. 

I'm off to ATI.  After I do the updates, I will have to reinstall the RAM modules and see how it goes.

--pat
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Your card has either 128 or 256 MB storage, so it shouldn't be using video mapping at all.

Not necessarily, Karl. It is usual to map the video RAM into the main memory address space, so it can be addressed from the main processor as well as the video firmware.  Thus it can occupy addresses even though the main RAM itself is not being used to support video.
 

Karl

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Good point Gary, but I doubt that it does so, given the GPU's incorporated in newer systems. A check of the BIOS may provide an answer.

Quote from MSKB about Vista video mapping: "Allow video drivers to quickly switch user views from regular application memory into Cached, non-cached, write combined AGP or video RAM mappings" 

I haven't a clue as to how ATI wrote the drivers for the X700, so I also don't have a clue which method they use :-\
 

Pat

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That's interesting.  So the video RAm can be used as normal RAM?  I had heard that shared RAM is not desirable, but don't really know why.  Maybe it causes this mapping issue.  Haven't heard back from Sony yet.  I'd like to know if they've been able to reproduce the problem.  If not, I asked to borrow their RAM modules.  Shall place another call tomorrow.

The first pair of 2x1gb modules I got from Memory Specialists didn't work together at all.  The new 2x1gb modules work great except when I use the Live TV in Media Center.

So I spent most of today trying to install the ATI Catalyst update.  It absolutely refused to install, saying "INF error.  Video driver not found."  No matter what I did.  I completely uninstalled the old driver and software, per the new driver crash suggestion, and let a VGA driver take over.  Got a little hairy wondering if I'd get my lovely wide screen back.  Anyway, the new download still refused to install.  I already have framework.net running, but I installed their download.  Didn't help.  (BTW, I kept restoring my original Catalyst and video driver from Recovery.)  Interesting note that the originally installed Catalyst software doesn't work on this computer.  I got it to open once today, and never again. 

So I registered the card and signed up for tech support.  This exact install problem is addressed in the knowledge base for other versions of the Radeon cards, but not the Mobility X700, which I have. 

--pat
 

Ned

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No, it's not really sharing RAM, but mapping the addresses for the video RAM over the same addresses used by the system RAM.  Then you have two different memory systems using the same addresses and that won't work.  Normally, the video drivers SHOULD map the video RAM to addresses above the system RAM, but if they are poorly written and, for example, assume that nobody would every have 2GB of RAM in a notebook, that would cause problems.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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You system has a finite limit on the addresses for main memory - whatever the engineers designed for it. If they plan to allow only up to 2 GB of memory, they might provide only 2 GB of memory addresses to match. Then, when the video adapter allocates memory addresses to use for accessing video RAM, it might select addresses ranging from 1.5 GB to 2 GB.  Along comes Pat and tries to insert more RAM, bringing her system up to 2 GB of main memory. But wait, video RAM is occupying the high 0.5 GB, so how does the system address all Pat's RAM? There's only room for 1.5 GB!

Addressing for video RAM used to be a non-issue when video RAM came in quantities like 64 KB, but now we often see 256MB-512MB. System designers need to provide more addressing so the system can accommodate 2 GB or more of main memory (RAM) and another 512 -1024 MB of video Ram. This has a cost. It's a modest one, but in the price competitive PC market every penny counts.

I'm guessing that Sony designed this system with a less capale video adapter in mind and then upgraded it it with a better one with more video Ram. There was probably room in the original design for a full complement of RAM and the video RAM as well, but in the upgraded video version there is no longer room for both. That's just a wild guess on my part, but it's a situation that arose quite commonly in my own system design days. Lat e in the design cycle a better component would come available, with more capability for same or lower price. But adding it in late in the game exceeded the limits of some other component that could not be readily changed or perhaps was too expensive to upgrade at that time. Do you limit everybody by going with the less capable component or go ahead and use it and limit a few people who may bump into the other limit?  It's a dilemma
 

Pat

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I've suspected the video card issue all along.  It doesn't seem to be well suited to the rest of the system. 

I spent hours and hours yesterday morning trying to upgrade and then to replace the original video driver and then to upgrade again.  Nothing worked.  I filed a tech report with ATI and haven't heard back. 

On the video driver update, first I tried downloading and installing the update, but the "Inf error video driver not found" message  causing the upgrade to abort suggested that I reinstall the original driver.  So I went to recovery and reinstalled the original.  Tried to upgrade, but got the abort.  Then I tried uninstalling the old driver completely and reinstall the recovered driver.  Didn't help.  So then I went out to the Sony website and downloaded all the files they claim are the original factory loaded software.  (I did all updates, of course.)  Still no update.  I suspect that the ATI updated driver is much needed to make this problem resolve itself.  ATI has some kind of Catalyst Control Center for managing the card.  The CCC has opened once and not again.  Apparently it's closely integrated with the driver, so it seems to be a requirement.  If the CCC doesn't work, I imagine some of the other features of the card aren't working.

This would all be resolved days ago if Sony and ATI would spend a couple minutes together. 

On the whole the computer works fine.  TV works great on 1gb RAM. Sony's all-in-ones are my favorite machines for in a small RV.  I wouldn't give the machine back, even if the RAM ends up in a bag forever.  But I'm really concerned that the video drivers can't be fixed, and I'd sure like to max out what I was sold.

I tried reinstalling the Visioneer 7300 scanner, which caused the system to crash, so I just uninstalled the scanner driver and software and will get rid of the scanner.  I rarely use it, so it doesn't justify the space it occupies.  It creeked the other day when I did get it working, but the Visioneer software is not the greatest.  The One-Touch features are not well programmed.  It is very thin and runs off the USB2 power.  I should post it in the freebie message board.  I don't know of anybody around here who would use it.

--pat

 

Karl

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Apparently it's closely integrated with the driver, so it seems to be a requirement.  If the CCC doesn't work, I imagine some of the other features of the card aren't working.
The Catalyst software contains both the Control Center AND the drivers. Your system must have .NET 1.1 or 2.0 installed; check Control Panel, Add or Remove programs, and look for Microsoft .NET Framework to determine which version is installed. Download and install from Microsoft if necessary. There is also a Hotfix for it (KB 886903) and you should install that before installing the Catalyst sftw.

The "Inf error video driver not found" tells you that it couldn't find the INF file. Use Windows Explorer to find that file on your computer, and enter the location manually where it can be found. There will be an option to browse for it, so you tell it where to go (literally)step by step. It may ask for other files too - use the same procedure.
 

Pat

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Karl:  Unfortunately I did all of the above to no avail.  I even installed the .net v2 from the ATI website.  So when in doubt, read the directions.  Last night I reread the ATI website for the dozenth time,  and I am fairly sure that the combination of Radeon MOBILITY x700 plus WinXPMCE does not have a fix.  I found a little utility in the Radeon Mobility section of the ATI website, which lists the Radeom Mobility x700 as one of the applicable cards,  and the utility says the upgrade isn't for my system and to contact the computer manufacturer for assistance.  The biggest confusion is that the site will say that there is a CCC upgrade for the Radeom Mobility X700 for WinXP, but it isn't clear that this apparently does not apply to WinXPMCE.  Those of us with WinXPMCE do have WinXP, but ATI is treating them as entirely distinct. 

I'm with the crowd of people who don't like MCE.  I had another computer with different media software, and the software was so much nicer.  Made much better quality recordings and was more convenient for editing.  But I like the Sony all-in-ones, which are their media models.

Next step is to do a final backup and then restore the original configuration to get rid of some of the overinstalls that may be mixing things up.  I know the scanner overwrote something.  Sick as it sounds, I actually enjoy reorganizing my software a few times with a new computer.  I think half the time I change computers just for the fun to getting them working the way I want them.  The downside is then I can't tell I have a new one.  To make it even more weird, I like the Windows Classic look, which I've been using since Win95.  Hope Vista provides that option.

Now that I have this Radeon card in here, I should get a new 3D game and test the card's and computer's abilities. Wish they'd come out with a Diablo 3 as good as 2.  My favorite games were the Alone in the Dark ones from decades ago.

--pat

 
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