Sony VAIO PCV200 User's Log

by J.R. Mooneyham
This page last updated on or about 11-26-2002

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Sony VAIO PCV200 User's Log Table of Contents

11-26-02: Long overdue update on the pcv-200

To make a long story short, our friend Roger took possession of the PCV-200 during a long period where no one was using it, to revamp and give to his daughter. As Roger knows more than I about PCs hopefully he was able to fix the weird BIOS problem or whatever was afflicting it. I'll try to find out and update this log on this point later.

Sony VAIO PCV200 User's Log Contents

5-2-02: Update on the old VAIO mangled by the local ISP CD

Here's what happened since my last log entry:

My city brother did not fix the old Sony like he told me he would. Luckily they had the new Sony to play with. But still, I didn't like the idea of the old VAIO being down for an extended period. I managed to make another visit to the house, at which time I initiated some recovery procedures. Unfortunately those procedures involved a lot of waiting around doing nothing while the PC chugged away (remember the old Sony is a 233 MHz machine), and I had to leave before they were finished. My brother's wife continued the procedures, but also had to apply a few tricks of her own, to get the old VAIO back up and running in safe mode. Fortunately she reports she can still run some the programs she normally uses on the old VAIO, even though it's stuck in safe mode.

Whatever the ISP CD did to the machine (see previous entry), it was a pretty big hit. Even a full disk format and re-install didn't seem to entirely fix it. Maybe the CD did something to the BIOS? I don't know. I've very little savvy in PC troubleshooting.

Luckily though my city brother plus my pal Roger have oodles of PC savvy. Unluckily, it's been hard to get my brother to attend to the PC since the problems began (he stays busy at work), plus he has his own modern sleek Sony notebook and the family have the new VAIO, so it's easy for him to let the old VAIO sit for extended periods in safe mode.

Roger too is busy, and I'm not sure when (or if) I might get him to travel the 50 miles one way to check it out.

I might end up bringing the old Sony home myself, for some indepth repair work where all my tools and other resources are handy. If I could find some good deals on parts for the old VAIO, it's be nice to upgrade the RAM and hard drive too while I was at it.

Sony VAIO PCV200 User's Log Contents

1-24-02: I blow up the PCV-200 during a flood

Don't worry-- so far as I know it's just a temporary must-re-install-the-OS-again type of affair, which I think has already happened on this VAIO several times when other users were at the helm.

Plus, the PC has had a lot of kid's games and other stuff installed on it during past years-- so it was due for a revamp.

Anyway, what happened was my brother's wife was trying to install internet access on the machine in their new location (they moved this year, so a new ISP was required). According to what I know at the moment, she'd obtained an installation CD from the ISP, then called tech support to have them walk her through the installation. They found out what OS, etc., she was using and told her NOT to use the CD. They then tried to tell her how to go about manually setting up the machine. Keep in mind this PC had been on the internet before for years, with another ISP.

I guess she spent hours on the phone with them, but could never get the software to work. She called me for help, but my suggestions didn't work either (helping someone over the phone with PC configuration is maybe 3-20 times harder than being there in person). I arranged to stop by a couple days later to see to it personally.

I was kind of in a bind the day of my visit, as I was mainly in town bringing my mom in for a doctor visit, and stopped by here after the appointment, and mom with me. My brother's house is a one and half hour trip one-way for me now, and with mom still recuperating from some recent treatments I couldn't stay as long here as I had previously at my other brother's house, getting the other family online.

The lady of the house had all the specs wrote down for me. Things went pretty slowly, as this old Sony now seems pretty slow compared to newer machines. It takes even longer to boot up than my 100 MHz faster iMac (but restarts much more quickly). I went through and adjusted some settings and tried to dial up. No go. Tried some other tweaks. Still nothing. I could hear the modem dial up the other, and pop and crackle a bit, then there'd be silence, and finally the line would drop with a disconnect notice. The connection wouldn't go all the way through for some reason-- apparently the same trouble the user had had before. I tried several different things, like swapping out phone lines to make sure I wasn't using a bad one, unplugging an answering machine on the same line, switching from hardware to software flow control (the Sony uses an old 33.6 winmodem), and retested the dial up each time. Still no go.

Were the specs correct? Was there some deficiency in the old Sony's hardware/software rendering it incompatible with the ISP? According to the ISP's own docs, a 28.8 modem was fast enough for their service. The Sony's 33.6 should have handled it. Yes, in some rare case you might have to upgrade the modem driver software or whatever, but the key word there is rare-- and even in that case the connection usually goes through to completion and lasts at least a few minutes.

Well, they wanted the new Sony online too, so I moved to that PC and set it up, figuring that if it worked I'd know the specs were correct, and I'd note any other specs automatically set in various control panels there, and duplicate them on the old Sony to get it working.

The new Sony went on line instantly (though the connection itself was preceded with lengthy tasks of other sorts, such as having to cut an access hole out of a way too substantial furniture backing with a way too puny cutting blade; I had arrived unprepared for some of the tasks required here). I dutifully copied all the specs I could find in the various control panels, moved back to the old Sony, and inserted them.

Still didn't work.

OK. I figured why not try the ISP CD? After all, the old Sony could use updated versions of the browser and email program, and just maybe we'd get past whatever it was holding us up here.

Big mistake. The install application on the CD seemed to do fine until the very last step, at which point it left us stranded, and stuck in some odd proprietary window which took up the whole display. From that point on you could not call up the browser without getting stuck in the same place again. Plus, the PC still wouldn't connect any better than before. Grrr.

I tried mucking about in various folders on the PC to disable whatever the ISP was using to lock out the browser this way. Nothing worked. So I tried to un-install the new browser software the CD had installed. I figured that would get rid of the lock out, and then I'd try setting up the internet through the wizard like I did on the newer Sony, and seemed to work well.

The un-install crapped out, essentially leaving the PC brain-damaged and in need of an OS re-install. My brother called in about that time and discussed it with me. He said the old Sony was needing a re-install anyway, and that he would do it.

It's very unsual for me to leave a place after disabling a computer, and not fixing the problem myself (maybe this was the first time ever?). But it was getting late, mom was exhausted, I was tired too, and I HAD succeeded in getting the newer PC online, plus the old PC's repair was spoken for, and flood waters were mounting outside.

I kid you not: flood waters really were rising outside. And we had a 1.5 hour drive ahead of us. In good weather. It'd been pouring rain all day, ever since before we started out at 7 AM, in the dark. The roads had been pretty badly puddled up even then. Now, around 3 PM, they were likely getting impassable in spots. There was a chance we'd have to spend the night. But knowing the interstates had much better drainage engineering than most other roads, I figured we'd try to make it to the interstate before giving up. The roads were indeed flooding in the vicinity, but we made it to the interstate and by around dark were back in our hometown.

Sony VAIO PCV200 User's Log Contents

12-27-01: The PCV-200 is still holding the fort

Yikes! A year a half since my last update! Sorry, but not much to report. The previous paperclip incident didn't hurt anything so far as I know. The Sony's been pretty much in constant use by children all this time. Their mother may use it some too, but I just don't know much about her usage patterns (with three tiny kids she likely doesn't spend much time on it!). The family moved to a new home even further away than before, so I'll likely have even less to report on their computer activities in the future.

I did yesterday move the old Sony to a different location in the house to make room for a newer model. But apparently the old Sony is still taking care of the kids, which includes five through one year olds now. Of course, the old Sony is pretty long in the tooth now, running Windows 95 at 233 MHz, with only 32 MB RAM, 4 GB hard drive, 15 inch monitor, and 33.6 modem. He could be upgraded in several ways of course, but with PC prices being what they are today anyone would be wise to do a cost-analysis of upgrading him versus replacing him with a new or more more modern refurbed machine.

My brother now also uses a Sony laptop in connection to his job. It runs Windows XP like his new Sony RX-540 does.

Another desktop PC in the house is also newer and boasts more RAM and speed than the PCV-200, but it's running Linux, and so is pretty much useless to everyone in the family but the programmer.

Sony VAIO PCV200 User's Log Contents

6-2-2000: A two year old fills the Sony's Zip drive with paperclips

Wow. It's been over a year since I updated the Sony log. Why? Well, the Sony belongs to my brother Scotty rather than me, who lives 30 miles away. Plus Scotty performs virtually all his own maintenance or whatever, being a programmer and tinkerer by nature.

But mainly the Sony has simply given no significant problems of which I'm aware. Despite being mostly used by Scotty's non-geek wife for web, email, and chat, and their (presently) four year old and two year old kids for games. Scotty received a nice new custom-built PC from a friend last Christmas to serve as his personal machine, which allowed the Sony to become almost the exclusive province of the wife and kids.

The bundled monitor with the Sony has turned out to be great. At one time I saw some waviness in it, but apparently that was because of the monitor being placed too near the power supply in the PC. After positions were changed, the waviness was gone.

Despite the fact of sporting only 32 MB RAM while running Windows 95, the Sony rarely displays anything like memory-related problems. There's one or two kid's games that on occasion will cause the machine to crash, but that's about it.

During a virus scare some months back Scotty may have been tricked by a hacker website into killing the Sony with an malevolent download-- but that was fixed by formatting the disk and restoring the PC from the bundled restore disk.

Overall I still wish I'd had the money to buy another one or two of the Sonys when I had the chance-- it appears to be that good of a machine.

As for the latest incident with the paperclips...I advised the wife to keep the Sony switched off until Scotty could try to fish out the last paper clip after he gets off work. She'd already got all but one out by the time I talked to her. The clips may be the type with paint or rubber coatings-- so that might help limit any electrical damage if they're not very conductive of electricity. Mechanical damage might be another subject altogether. Hopefully Scotty will be able to restore the ZIP successfully. If not, well, a replacement Zip runs under a $100 these days I believe.

Sony VAIO PCV200 User's Log Contents

3-6-99: WebFLUX Special Report: My first purchase online; a Sony VAIO PCV200 video editing PC plus monitor

In early February I made my first online order ever, using my credit card, making a purchase for my brother Scotty. I chose to do this at ADW (American Discount Warehouse), since it seemed to be offering the best all around PC deal I could find at the time, and the site made ADW appear both legit and substantial.

I'd also been visiting ADW frequently for maybe a couple months or more by this time.

Although technically I guess any of our net capable terminals around here could theoretically have allowed this ecommerce transaction, I chose to use the Windows98 NEC laptop I've previously written about here. Why? Most of the web is optimized to run best with Windows PCs, and I didn't want anything to go amiss with this order. Our WebTV is configured so that incoming calls can knock it offline anytime, so that also knocked WebTV out of the running (again, I wanted to minimize the chances of a screwup). Lastly, our Macs simply crash too much to risk using them. So the new Windows98 laptop was my choice for client.

Scotty already had an old Mac Performa 460 20 MB/2 GB 33 MHz 68030 with 14 inch monitor, and both a B/W and color Apple StyleWriters and an old Microtek B/W scanner.

Scotty's employer uses PCs though, and Scotty's programmed a lot for them-- again, via the company PCs. Scotty also has entrepreneurial shareware ambitions, but has found the Mac shareware market to be pretty small compared to the PC side (judging from downloads of his wares for both platforms from c|net).

Another aspect to Scotty's ambitions is movie, video, and/or commercial advertising productions. Scotty's created lots of video clips and promotions for his employer, using both the video editing Mac 6400 here at FLUX Central, as well as much more high end editing equipment at his employer's.

So from the above, you can see that even if Apple was kicking butt in the marketplace today (with marketshare at 12% or higher), there'd still be plenty of reasons for Scotty to logically want and need a reasonably modern Windows PC, hopefully with video editing power included.

And so here I was, perusing ADW's refurbed and excess new PCs in early 1999. And look what I found...!

A 233 MHz Pentium II, 32 MB RAM, 4.3 GB hard drive, CD, 33.6 Kbps speaker phone/fax modem, ZIP drive, and video input and output...! A 15 inch monitor! Windows95, MS Works, telephony, image, audio, and video editing software, MS Bookshelf, games, and still MORE software....! Also upgradeable to 384 MB RAM, and apparently 56k speed, or via USB and older standard PC ports, or two empty PCI slots, or an empty drive bay (I think), plus three remaining empty GB of disk space for software installs, and more....!

How much for all this? $699 before shipping. Yep. You read that right.

Of course, both PC and monitor were labeled refurbs, with limited warranties, and I figured there was a good chance we'd have to format the drive and re-install all the software from scratch. But Scotty's somewhat experienced with PCs and even more so with computers in general, plus I was available for some help in a pinch, plus we had the internet for consultation too. Surely we could handle virtually anything but the very worst problems with the thing-- and in a worst case scenario we were supposed to be able to return it anyway, right? Right.

So what did I get in the delivery? Actually more than I expected. The Sony PCV200 and all related materials-- including the monitor-- seemed absolutely brand spanking new! Everything (accessory-wise) was shrinkwrapped and factory sealed, and the software on the PC booted up exactly as you'd expect a new PC to act (with registration and set up screens appearing). Nothing appeared to have been touched by human hands since it rolled off the factory assembly line.

I guess Sony built these exquisite PCs a couple years back and just overestimated consumer demand for video editing, as well as how much consumers were willing to pay for PCs in general-- and so these superb (but expensive) units languished in a warehouse somewhere the last couple of years, gathering dust. Now they are considered to have 'slow' processors, etc., and being sold off for a fraction of their original cost. (Yay for us!)

Within hours of ordering I happened across some web sites offering end user reviews of exactly what I'd ordered-- refurb Sony PCV200 PCs! As well as other refurb Sony products like monitors. Yikes!

But I was pleasantly surprised by the reviews. There were some comments on deal-mac's forum about Sony refurbed monitors being great, and buyer reviews elsewhere of Sony refurb PCs also having only praise for the units. PCWorld said Sony rated in the top three PC makers in service quality and reliability.

As for guarantees, there was an ADW 7 day refund policy, 30 day exchange, and 90 day Sony warranty on the units.

Unfortunately, my online purchase did not go without a few glitches (or fear of same).

For instance, I was unsure if I needed to add the free monitor to my cart, and when I tried, seemed unable to do so (I could subtract items but not add them it seemed).

My order summary didn't mention the monitor when it came onscreen.

My order form screen offered space for extra shipping comments, so I typed in something like "Please don't forget to include my free monitor in the shipment!"

I also sent an email to ADW customer support on the heels of my order, explaining the situation and seeking some confirmation that the monitor would be coming too.

By early the second day I still hadn't gotten any email reply, so I made a voice call to confirm things, and was assured the monitor was coming. They also gave me a Fed Ex tracking ID number for the package, which I also used in calling Fed Ex (for all the good it did me; my package was '...enroute to a Fed Ex distribution center...').

I got a emailed response from ADW the same day the package arrived, telling me basically the same stuff I'd gotten over the voice line. The invoice with the package didn't show a price. A few days afterwards I got a separate letter which included a price, with apparently an extra $50 or so tacked on for the shipping of the monitor (which was not unexpected by me under the circumstances).

Scotty was too tied up with his job to do the preliminary testing and set up of the system, so I did it instead (remember we only had a seven day period to return it for refund, and there was a huge amount of hardware on this thing to test!).

I registered online with Sony to check the modem, and also checked out the various drives too, formatting a ZIP and opening a PC floppy and a program off CD.

I also set up the Sony for web surfing and email too, and tested that. Another user that was more familiar with PCs than I also opened and ran some of the programs too, verifying that those seemed to be functional and well in order as well.

I was surprised by the quality and attention to detail in the Sony PC. A gorgeous color map identifying all the ports on the rear of the PC was laid out alongside the I/O connectors. An extra set of A/V ports were provided on the front for user convenience. A pass-thru phone line connection was also included so you could keep both a phone and the modem attached simultaneously.

The unit's appearance could almost be called sexy. A purplish color, quite stylish in layout, with sliding panels to cover things like CD, floppy, and ZIP drive faces if you want (though doing so when the unit is switched on may be risky due to software controlled ejects of media damaging the drives by hitting the panels).

I was amused to see the Sony manual warn users that they could get hurt running the PC with its case open or removed. Why amused? Because Steve Jobs was bragging recently that the new 1999 blue G3 PowerMacs could do that. Well, here was a several year old Sony PC that did the same thing.

It did seem a couple of the software packages in the original ADW advertisement were substituted for by others (like Adobe PhotoDeluxe by a less well known image editor), but overall most all the software functionality I expected in the unit seemed to be there, in one form or another. I was so overwhelmingly pleased by events I would not quibble over such substitutions-- a savvy user would often expect some of this to happen in the refurb market anyway, and I believe many vendors state this officially on their sites somewhere too.

I let the PC stay on for about 24 hours of burn-in before transporting it to Scotty's house.

The new owner of the Sony will likely want to buy a set of speakers for it almost immediately-- as the unit expects speakers to be present in the accompanying Sony VAIO monitor, which of course is not the free monitor bundled with the Sony refurb from ADW.

The 233 MHz Sony seems to run about the same speed or maybe slightly faster than our 200 MHz Performa 6400.

Scotty reports the VAIO appears to offer substantially higher quality video output (resolution-wise) than our Performa 6400 ever did (although he did have to download and install a different video driver from the VAIO site to get it to do so).

Note folks that here at FLUX Central Apple has suffered two defections to the PC camp lately. A Mac Performa 6400 owner has purchased a PC laptop and seems fairly well pleased with it (although the teething pains of switching platforms are also present). Now an old Mac Performa 460 family is going PC with this Sony VAIO system. Too, I (another long-time Mac user) have necessarily been involved with helping those other users in various ways to configure and set up their machines; so I'm getting more familiar and comfortable with PCs too as I do so. All these things will help me switch platforms too from the Mac in coming months...which I expect to do, since up to now I've seen no compelling reason from Apple to stay on the Mac-- but many to switch.

Steve Jobs has yet to make up for killing the clones and CHRP and other promising Mac strategies and technologies, and causing Mac prices to hover around two to three times the cost of comparable PCs the past year or two, as well as for the accelerated exodus of developers from the Mac platform he sparked during this same period.

Besides the availability of quality NEW PCs with monitors for as little as $500 or so (emachines), and the looming next generation of PCs dropping the ISA bus and other old technologies responsible for many PC problems of the past, there's also the intriguing new possibilities of coming set tops and NCs to consider. Although I often speculate about great things Apple could do in theory to better compete against such things, in reality they have so far promised much and delivered little, under the 'second coming' leadership of Jobs.

(Sorry folks, but applying see-thru blouses to Macs and dropping floppy drives don't count as real innovations in my book. USB? Harder hitting ads? Sleeker cases? Easy monthly payment plans? Online stores? That's all just playing catchup to PCs. Notice that we likely couldn't have set up a SINGLE well equipped new desktop Mac for the total price we spent to get BOTH a new well equipped Windows laptop and the refurbed Sony plus monitor in past months; look up all the features and software we acquired, and tally up the Mac equivalents, if you don't believe me. Plus, we can simply DO MORE with the PCs we bought too, as they are more widely supported by software developers and services of all kinds, than Macs are today).

Bottomline? I'm seriously impressed with the Sony VAIO PC line now, and may be biased towards them when I get around to buying my own personal PC in coming months (or whenever). I'm also happy to discover ADW to be possibly a great new vendor source of new and refurbed PCs at great prices and with reasonably good service so far.

I've compiled all the best info regarding PC bargain hunting I learned the past year into J.R.'s Dirt Cheap PC and Killer Deals Page, if you too are shopping for PCs these days.

Sony VAIO PCV200 User's Log Contents

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The above article(s) come from and make references to a collection copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 by J.R. Mooneyham (except where otherwise noted in the text). Text here explicitly authored by J.R. Mooneyham may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes in paper and electronic form without charge if this copyright paragraph and link to are included.

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