A mid-2003 desktop PC that functions as a media center of sorts, and features dual optical drives (CD burner with a DVD reader) and remote control with an IR receiver. Some models featured an analog TV tuner and a dial-up modem fitted to one of the PCI slots.
Our VAIO journey starts with the Recovery Wizard, which takes us through the formatting process.
Remarkably it looks like a Windows 2000 environment.
The Sony-branded OOBE, which presents the opportunity to register with Sony and Microsoft.
Norton Internet Security comes bundled with the laptop which provides virus protection for a year since it is activated, along with a firewall. Norton also integrates itself into Internet Explorer, providing popup protection. It also appears within Windows Explorer itself.
After the first bootup, we are prompted to insert one of the VAIO recovery disks, these are tied to the machine and will not work inside a virtual environment, and rely on different copy protection
Interesting, Norton seems to be able to pickup and download a few updates, considering this product is nearing 20 years old that’s quite impressive. But I doubt these cover the latest virus definitions, Norton possibly still operates the server that holds these aged definition updates.
There are a few programs missing since the final part of the recovery wizard specifically checks that you are running on a Sony VAIO PC. I wonder if this checks for the exact model, or if there is just the Sony string in the BIOS, would this work for other Sony models?
SonicStage was the software used to manage and playback Sony’s ATARC format audio, which was their own property audio format that was initially used on the first MiniDisc models, and was later used for their Walkman digital music players. ATARC was more efficient than MP2 and MP3 at higher bitrates but compared less with AAC or WMA. ATARC was also only supported on Sony products, and even then not all of their electronics supported it, Sony Ericsson phones in Europe had no support for ATRAC, and neither did the first PlayStation or the PlayStation 2, with the PS3 introducing support for the codec.
SonicStage was very similar to iTunes in concept and acted as a way to play purchased songs from Sony’s CONNECT store. As these files were protected by DRM, an account and correct authorization was required to playback the songs purchased by the user. SonicStage could also sync and transfer songs to supported Walkman players, and only Walkman players.
This was during a dark period of time where record companies insisted that much purchases online had to be digitally protected using some form of DRM, which meant purchasing music from one vendor would mean you could only play that track on software or a device that the vendor had support for. This meant music purchased from iTunes could not be played back on a Walkman or a Microsoft PlaysForSure device without burning it to a CD, then reimporting it as MP3 or whichever format the program and device supported, basically the analog hole.
Was it any wonder people turned to piracy?
DRM free music stores later came about, and many vendors eventually started offering DRM free downloads for their songs and all was well. Then the music industry went one step further and insisted streaming was the next best thing, meaning you no longer owned or had direct access to music, instead of being steamed from the cloud for a monthly fee.
As for Sony, the CONNECT store closed down in 2008, and Sonic Stage was discontinued and replaced a few years later with MediaGo, which was mainly intended for the Sony PSP but could work with compatible Walkman devices. Sony would later try again in the music market with Quircity, a streaming playroom before being rebranded to PlayStation Music, and then been killed off in favor of Spotify on the PS4.
For a company that has its own major record label, Sony does suck with online music services.
Screensavers & Wallpapers
Theirs a VAIO screensaver bundled which is a bunch of stock photos taken with a few transition effect applied, with stock music being placed in the background.
You can of course customize it with your own photos, or memes if that is more your thing.
Various backgrounds, these would blend in with the laptop design and supported a variety of resolutions (whilst the internal LCD would use its optimal resolution, Sony provided different wallpaper resolution’s in the event you connect an external monitor.
Appears to be a creative photo editing application where you can import photos from a digital camera (maybe a Sony CyberShot camera) and apply effects or add clip-art to them. You then have the option of printing these out or attaching them as an email. you can also create greeting cards with this, so it acts similar to Microsoft Publisher in a way,
Netscape browser version 6, a popular alternative browser (Didn’t Microsoft discourage OEM’s from doing this? Sony clearly didn’t give a fuck)
I think this is some sort of last.fm service from before its time, where it will organize and find similar artists depending on the ones currently in your library, whilst organizing your current music collection. This no longer works and requires a connection to a server that is long since defunct. It sort of similar to Apple Genius playlists.
Memory Stick Formater
Formats a Sony Memory Stick, nuff said. Not sure why you can’t do this in Windows Explorer, possibly due to Magic Gate encryption?
Software that Sony loved to bundle with their VAIO systems, is some sort of account and spending management software.
An advert for AOL, looks a bit basic for 2003 standards.
Another machine that’s supported by 86box and has a recovery CD available online
A desktop PC with a Pentium 166Mhz (No MMX), 32MB of RAM (Although we will be giving it 128MB, the max amount), an 8X CD-ROM, floppy drive, and a 2.1GB HDD. The PCV-90 was a higher-end machine and featured the Pentium at 200Mhz and a 2.5GB HDD. Both systems use the ATI RAGE 3D graphics card with 2MB VRAM.
86box does not support all of the hardware that the PCV70 shipped with, the ATI RAGE graphics accelerator is missing and currently un-emulated so we had to substitute another graphics card instead.
A copy was posted onto the Internet Archive which was the full backup disc that shipped with the computer, which was intended to restore the PC back to factory shipped state. This is where we encountered issues, the recovery utility rightly detected that the hard drive was unformatted since this was a new machine VHD, and instructed me to exit the interface and run a command, which would have initialized the disc. But these commands fail to run, they appear to be batch files that would have run FDISK with a specific argument to create the disc. There are two of these, one for each model since both models had different hard disk sizes.
When the CD-ROM boots, it mounts a virtual floppy drive to drive A: and the actual floppy drive is moved to B: This image is located as an IMG file and can be extracted and mounted in modern Windows. For some reason when this IMG file is booted, it loads some sort of customized boot disk but fails to load the CD-ROM drive despite it being detected by the Windows 95 or 98 bootdisks. As a result, the recovery utility cannot see the CD-ROM drive since that is running off the virtual floppy drive mentioned earlier. The reconvey utility is non-functional due to the lack of CD drive detected by the emulated boot disk, likely Sony is using a custom boot disk that came with its own set of drivers. When the driver loads you can quickly see an error message informing no CD drivers were found.
So in order to make these CD’s work with 86Box we are going to have to work around them
The easiest way was to install Windows 95 RTM, then boot into the recovery program and have it overwrite the files and replace the install, this also involved initializing the disk. To save time I would opt for a minimal install and use the RTM version instead of the later OSR releases as that’s the version Sony used (They actually used the plus pack version, which is integrated into the recovery image and gets installed regardless)
Once Windows 95 is installed and fully bootable, I had to trick the recovery utility to load files from the G: CD-ROM drive, but the regular Microsoft boot discs will place the CD-ROM drive as D: which the Sony utility will refuse to see. Multiple ways to do this was: Both methods work best when you have a basic Windows 95 install, this is because the recovery software has issues writing to the bootsector.
Method 1: Bruteforce SCSI
Add a supported SCSI adaptor to the 86box machine, and add a load of both IDE and SCSI CD-ROM drives with the hope one of them would become the G: drive.
I would then use the Windows 98 recovery disc, which has the SCSI drivers to detect the drives and load the recovery program. Once the boot disk environment had loaded, verify the C drive was accessible (If not FDISK it using FAT16). You have to type ‘lock C:’ to enable full access to the C: (See the Note below) Then I mounted the extracted OSBOOT file as a floppy disk in 86box. This was done by extracting the OSBOOT file from the iso and mounting it after the Windows 98 boot disk had loaded, once mounted I ran the recover.exe file and mounted the actual iso image under the G drive.
Once the recovery utility loads, select restore system without format, and it should begin the restore process, where it will copy the files onto the C drive, once completed you can reboot the system and it will go through the initial setup procedure. Remember to eject any floppy discs
Note: The version of DOS that the Windows 98 bootdisk shipped with disables direct writing to the C: drive by default unless the lock C: command was used before the recovery software was loaded. Even then the software had issues writing to the boot sector, so even after transferring and unpacking the files we were still left with an unbootable system. This is why I advised installing an RTM version of 95 then using the recovery utility to overwrite it with the Sony image.
Once the OS is installed you can remove the SCSI drive if you prefer.
Method 2: Modify the 95 bootdisk (Recommended)
Here we modify the existing Windows 95 boot disk to set the CD-ROM drive to be G: instead of D: The easiest way to do this was to mount 9Make a backup first) the bootdisk in a working Windows install or use a third-party utility, and edit the AUTOEXEC.BAT file on the root of the boot disc and change the line:
LH A:\MSCDEX.EXE /D:mscd001 /l:d
See the /l:d We want to change that to /l:g instead Then save This tells the DOS driver to start allocating CD-ROM or ATAPI drives from G: onwards
Now we mount and open the OSBOOT.IMG that was extracted from the Recovery CD, and pinch some files off it, namely the recover.exe, recover.ini, profile.ini and sony.exe All four of the files total 236KB and we want to copy them to the Windows 95 boot disk, If you run out of space there are a few utilities like regedit that can be deleted off the boot disk. Save and then mount the modified boot disc and boot the machine into it. If prompted on the startup disc, load the NEC IDE CROM driver. If everything is correct it should show
Drive G = Driver MSCD001 unit 0
At the prompt, type recover then hit enter (Should be on the A: drive) The recovery environment will then load Select Complete Restore Select Restore Original Software w/o Format You may get a few error messages that it was unable to copy certain system files, I believe this is related to the boot sector files I indicated earlier, as long as your original Windows 95 install was bootable then the recovery should work regardless.
I should note that despite testing both methods, both methods result in missing applications like Netscape Navigator. This wasn’t so much of an issue since I could reinstall them alter, and the recovery CD has dedicated options for reinstalling both browsers anyway, along with Microsoft Works and Money.
Update: It seems I had to do another reinstall, and on that one it did install both Netscape and Internet Explore, not sure what I did differently?
We had to substitute a few device drivers in order for us to have a working system
The ATI RAGE card is unemulated in 86box, instead, I used an ATI MAch64VT2 instead. Do note this card lacks MPEG decoding support so some video sequences will be corrupted and will just display a pink color screen
There is a shedload of software bundled with this VAIO PC, with many titles requiring an additional CD-ROM to be inserted in order to run, which would have been bundled with the system.
This was the default launcher that came with the system and would run in place of the Windows desktop, similar to the Packard Bell navigator and RM Window Box, oh and don’t forget Microsoft BOB. VAIO Space tries to take full advantage of the hardware that Sony offered and many parts of the launcher make use of MPEG video (which isn’t functional in 86box since no graphics card can accelerate MPEG video, so your left with pink squares instead.
There are a few different areas of the VAIO Space that contains links to dedicated applications: Home: Features links to My Space, a Welcome demo, the setting page. The Windows button takes you back to the 95 desktop My Space: Add shortcuts to your favorite applications. Windows: Take you to the Windows 95 desktop Help: Gives you a short description on how to use the VAIO Space utility
Net Space Accessible by clicking towards the top of the screen, this takes you ‘up’ and gives you a selection of internet applications like AOL, Netscape and Internet Explorer which were not installed on my system. There’s also links to Sony’s online website and an SOS button which opens up a phone dialler to dial 911
Screen 2 Click left from the home screen takes you to this screen, here you see four different categories: Work Center: features productivity software like Microsoft Works, Microsoft Money and Paint Reference Library: Links to reference stuff like Encarta, Family Doctor and Compton’s interactive encyclopedia. As the internet wasn’t very widespread it made sense to bundle this software/ Game Arcade: Links to various games like Wipeout and Mechwarrior 2, also featuring the entertainment pack games and the bundled windows games. Kids Land: Child-friendly software like 3D movie maker
Screen 3 Multimedia applications like the CdPlayer and WAV/MIDI player. These do not open the standalone windows applications, rather Sony’s own that they have bundled. The More A/V button shows the Window standard programs.
Judging from the software bundled, this was designed to be a family PC with various bits of software to suit everyone.
Overall its defiantly a unique experience and was designed to make it easier for novice users to use the system. Not sure how Microsoft felt about it though, image developing a new user interface only for some OEM to replace it with their own.
VoiceView: Seems to be a gateway to various online services, has an online game but this crashes when you try to open it
Billboard Music Guide: Needs CD-ROM
Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia: Needs CD-ROM
AOL: Desktop client for AOL, an internet service provider
Compuserve: Another Internet service provider client
Microsoft 3D Movie Maker: Popular movie maker application that was part of the Microsoft Home bundle
CyberPassage: Needs CD-ROM
DeltaPoint: Needs CD-ROM
Cartopedia: Needs CD-ROM
The Family Doctor: CD-ROM needed
Investor Insight: Another financial application
LAUNCH: Unknown, does not even open without the CD inserted
Microsoft Money: Accounting management software, the 96 edition is included here
Microsoft Phone: Looks like a phone dialer, to make calls through your PC
Microsoft Works: Microsoft’s basic productivity suite, version 4
Microsoft Reference: Works like an offline Wikipedia, needs a CD to run
Quicken SE Gateway: Looks to be a finance application and has a lot of links to various banks, requires a CD to fully run and appears to be trialware – limited to 10 launches.
Sidekick 95: Some sort of personal information manager, like Outlook that would store user contacts email address and phone numbers
Reader Rabbit: Needs a CD in order to run
American Heritage Talking Dictionary: Mainly functions as a dictionary, but has a few extras including an anagram generator and a thesaurus
Telephone Directory PC411: A phonebook application
Wipeout: A 32bit version of the popular PlayStation game, running using the ATI CIF graphics engine. Sadly 86box cannot emulate this and using a 3DFX or the S3 ViRGE won’t work because it’s designed exclusively for the ATI CIF API, which I hope to cover later on as there are quite a few titles that use this technology.
Also to note, WipEout was one of the launch games for the PlayStation
MechWarrior 2: Retail game that I’ll cover separately at some point in the future, again it needs its own CD-ROM
Microsoft Entertainment Pack: Included games like Chip’s Challange, Dr Black jack, and Jezzball to name a few
Hover: That game that came on the Windows 95 CD
This was one of the first home desktops to ship with onboard USB, two years before the iMac which was said to have popularised the standard. However, the version of Windows 95 that Sony shipped with the computer had no USB support. The intention was to ship USB support in an update once Microsoft had released the upgrade for Windows 95, which would be introduced in a supplement update to OSR2 which was released in August 1997, nearly a year after Sony had released the PCV-70/90.
Early Windows 95 USB was a bit of a disaster and didn’t have much support, in fact, it wasn’t until Windows 98SE that USB support was to the standard that we accept today, with the earlier versions lacking many USB drivers.
86Box does not allow for USB devices to be connected, so there isn’t much point in upgrading to this version anyway. Regardless i did try to upgrader it to a USB supported build, which ended up bricking the OS completely. Apparently you have to upgrade in steps first, to OSR1, then OSR2, then install the USB supplement, whilst I tried to install the USB supplement update only, which resulted in a VxD error upon bootup. Not even safe mode could rescue me here, I had to reinstall from scratch.
You would think the Microsoft installer would check first and tell me to upgrade to a supported version of 95, instead it just happily installed