Intel VT and notebook manufacturers -- call for action!

Intel VT and notebook manufacturers -- call for action!

Igor Levicki's picture

Good folks at Intel I need your help.

As some of you may have noticed, I have been awarded last summer with a Black Belt title, and I got a very nice notebook as a reward. It is a Sony VAIO VGN-FW190E.

Today I wanted to use Microsoft Virtual PC on it, and I realized in awe that the hardware virtualization support is disabled.

I used Everest, CPU-Z, CrystalCPUID and my own CPU info tool to verify that the P8600 actually does support VT which of course being high-end mobile 45nm part it does.

Being geeky I disassembled Virtual PC executable to check if perhaps detection doesn't work correctly and I found no flaws.

Then I consulted document order #253669 revision 29 (Intel 64 and IA-32 Architectures Software Developer's Manual Volume 3B - System Programming Guide) and in chapter 19.7 on page 156 I found that VT is controlled by MSR 0x3A bits 0, 1, and 2. I checked the contents of the MSR using CrystalCPUID MSR Editor tool and the value is 0x00000000 00000001, meaning that the VT has been disabled and the register locked.

After rebooting into BIOS I found no option to Enable/Disable VT. It is hardcoded as disabled.

I have spent two hours in chat with Sony Support. I got the following responses:

1. http://www.kb.sony.com/selfservice/documentLink.do?externalId=C381809

That KB article basically says that Intel VT is "currently" (since October 2008) not supported on VAIO notebooks.

2. Igor, as the Virtualization Technology is not supported, it is not possible to use the Hardware Virtualization.

In my opinion, this is giving Intel Corporation a bad name. I have Intel's latest and greatest mobile platform with not only VT but VT2 support which I cannot use simply because someone at Sony has been an incompetent cheapskate when they were configuring the BIOS modules.

3. This issue needs extensive communication. So, I suggest that you contact our Hotline Support team at 1-888-476-6972.

Well it is obvious that I can't make long distance call from Serbia and spend an hour listening to cheap elevator music until someone answers the phone and then spend another hour attempting to explain the technical nitty-gritty as I am being repeatedly told that "it is not supported".

4. BIOS updates will be released only if there are any known issues with the Computer.

Well, if this isn't a known issue then why it exists in their knowledge base? D'oh! Needless to say, BIOS is dated February 27th, 2008 so it probably doesn't even have recent microcode updates as well.

5. I suggest that you bookmark our Sony support site 'Drivers and Softwares' page to check for the latest updates.

Yeah, right. The only problem is that nowhere does it say on Sony's website "we are working on an update".

6. Igor, it is clearly mentioned that Sony VAIO computers do not currently support Virtualization Technology (VT).

Yes in the KB article dated October 27th, 2008.
No on the Sony Style website where the notebook has been ordered back in August 2008. Time travel not yet invented.

7. In this case, I suggest that you contact our Customer Information and Service Center to place and request. Dissatisfied customers and policy issues are handled by our Customer Information and Service Center.

Ok, so I will send an email, some developer will get it and all will be fine right? Bzzzt... Wrong!

8. Igor, I am sorry to inform you that, Telephone support is the only way to contact our Customer Information and Service Center.

Phone... again... this time I would need to call 1-239-768-7669 but I can't because...

9. In this case, you will be charged.

Well if I have to make an international call, isn't it obvious that I will be charged? D'oh!

Now, what this long (and hopefully at least a bit funny) rant tries to convey is that OEMs (not just Sony, other notebook manufacturers too) are damaging Intel's corporate image in this way.

How can I develop on Intel platform for Intel Platform using VT when I can't even turn it on?

I really need someone from Intel to help me with this issue.

Some manager on Intel Virtualization team who will pick up the phone, call a Sony representative, verbally wound his behind, rub some salt in, and demand a BIOS update A.S.A.P to be released to the customers. Or just politely ask -- whichever way works better.

Please folks, there is no one else who can resolve this!

Best regards,
Igor Levicki
Intel Black Belt

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
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chiazyn's picture
Similar sore experience with my 2-week-old Sony VAIO Z. I rubbed my eyes and stared at the sticker .. "Intel Centrino2 crippled inside". I am using VMware workstation, trying to run 64-bit Guests!

Quoting - Igor Levicki Good folks at Intel I need your help.

As some of you may have noticed, I have been awarded last summer with a Black Belt title, and I got a very nice notebook as a reward. It is a Sony VAIO VGN-FW190E.

Today I wanted to use Microsoft Virtual PC on it, and I realized in awe that the hardware virtualization support is disabled.

I used Everest, CPU-Z, CrystalCPUID and my own CPU info tool to verify that the P8600 actually does support VT which of course being high-end mobile 45nm part it does.

Being geeky I disassembled Virtual PC executable to check if perhaps detection doesn't work correctly and I found no flaws.

Then I consulted document order #253669 revision 29 (Intel 64 and IA-32 Architectures Software Developer's Manual Volume 3B - System Programming Guide) and in chapter 19.7 on page 156 I found that VT is controlled by MSR 0x3A bits 0, 1, and 2. I checked the contents of the MSR using CrystalCPUID MSR Editor tool and the value is 0x00000000 00000001, meaning that the VT has been disabled and the register locked.

After rebooting into BIOS I found no option to Enable/Disable VT. It is hardcoded as disabled.

I have spent two hours in chat with Sony Support. I got the following responses:

1. http://www.kb.sony.com/selfservice/documentLink.do?externalId=C381809

That KB article basically says that Intel VT is "currently" (since October 2008) not supported on VAIO notebooks.

2. Igor, as the Virtualization Technology is not supported, it is not possible to use the Hardware Virtualization.

In my opinion, this is giving Intel Corporation a bad name. I have Intel's latest and greatest mobile platform with not only VT but VT2 support which I cannot use simply because someone at Sony has been an incompetent cheapskate when they were configuring the BIOS modules.

3. This issue needs extensive communication. So, I suggest that you contact our Hotline Support team at 1-888-476-6972.

Well it is obvious that I can't make long distance call from Serbia and spend an hour listening to cheap elevator music until someone answers the phone and then spend another hour attempting to explain the technical nitty-gritty as I am being repeatedly told that "it is not supported".

4. BIOS updates will be released only if there are any known issues with the Computer.

Well, if this isn't a known issue then why it exists in their knowledge base? D'oh! Needless to say, BIOS is dated February 27th, 2008 so it probably doesn't even have recent microcode updates as well.

5. I suggest that you bookmark our Sony support site 'Drivers and Softwares' page to check for the latest updates.

Yeah, right. The only problem is that nowhere does it say on Sony's website "we are working on an update".

6. Igor, it is clearly mentioned that Sony VAIO computers do not currently support Virtualization Technology (VT).

Yes in the KB article dated October 27th, 2008.
No on the Sony Style website where the notebook has been ordered back in August 2008. Time travel not yet invented.

7. In this case, I suggest that you contact our Customer Information and Service Center to place and request. Dissatisfied customers and policy issues are handled by our Customer Information and Service Center.

Ok, so I will send an email, some developer will get it and all will be fine right? Bzzzt... Wrong!

8. Igor, I am sorry to inform you that, Telephone support is the only way to contact our Customer Information and Service Center.

Phone... again... this time I would need to call 1-239-768-7669 but I can't because...

9. In this case, you will be charged.

Well if I have to make an international call, isn't it obvious that I will be charged? D'oh!

Now, what this long (and hopefully at least a bit funny) rant tries to convey is that OEMs (not just Sony, other notebook manufacturers too) are damaging Intel's corporate image in this way.

How can I develop on Intel platform for Intel Platform using VT when I can't even turn it on?

I really need someone from Intel to help me with this issue.

Some manager on Intel Virtualization team who will pick up the phone, call a Sony representative, verbally wound his behind, rub some salt in, and demand a BIOS update A.S.A.P to be released to the customers. Or just politely ask -- whichever way works better.

Please folks, there is no one else who can resolve this!

Best regards,
Igor Levicki
Intel Black Belt

Igor Levicki's picture

Small, update, as you can see here:
http://blog.durdle.com/archives/2008/09/03/sony-vaio-z-disabled-vt-virtu...
I am not the only one having this issue.

I found out that there is a way to work around this issue by editing NVRAM (CMOS) but the problem is that I don't know the right NVRAM token for my notebook model and BIOS version. If someone can get that information for me I would be gratefull.

EDIT: Unfortunately this works for Phoenix BIOS, not for AMI BIOS which I have. Back to square one.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
chiazyn's picture
"Virtual" fine print on non-support for Intel VT CPU feature .. felt cheated by Sony

Now you see it - http://www.sony.com.sg/product/vgn-z26gn (specification tab)
Now you don't - http://www.sony.com.sg/microsite/vaio/products/vaio_z/product.html (my research and compared against Intel P8600 specs)

Quoting - Igor Levicki Small, update, as you can see here:
http://blog.durdle.com/archives/2008/09/03/sony-vaio-z-disabled-vt-virtu...
I am not the only one having this issue.

I found out that there is a way to work around this issue by editing NVRAM (CMOS) but the problem is that I don't know the right NVRAM token for my notebook model and BIOS version. If someone can get that information for me I would be gratefull.

EDIT: Unfortunately this works for Phoenix BIOS, not for AMI BIOS which I have. Back to square one.

Igor Levicki's picture

A small update on my own progress since it seems that nobody wants to help me:

I have figured out that the notebook has APTIO BIOS which is actually UEFI, not legacy BIOS like I suspected earlier.

AMI Firmware Update Utility(APTIO) Ver.2.21.03 (afuwin.exe) can be used to save the current flash contents which is what I have done. After brief analysis I realized that the firmware is produced by InsydeSW which is confirmed by the following press release.

I will now exercise my fair use rights and attempt to reverse-engineer the firmware to figure out how to enable Intel VT.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
Igor Levicki's picture

Another update in quest for my missing Intel VT:

If you too are interested in extracting your Aptio UEFI BIOS image from your Sony VAIO notebook you can get this file (right-click, Save As).

IMPORTANT: Do not run the file itself or you may brick your notebook! Neither Intel nor I will accept responsibility if you make a mistake!

Extract the contents of the EP0000169871.exe using WinZIP or WinRAR and keep only afuwin.exe, amifldrv32.sys, and amifldrv64.sys.

To read the contents of the flash and save it to a file type the following command in your command prompt window:

afuwin backup.rom /O

NOTE: The option on the command line is capital letter O, not zero, and you need to do this as the Administrator or afuwin.exe will not be able to install driver and access the flash interface.

The program will read out the flash and save a file. It will also set your CPU fan to 100% as a side effect, and you will have to reboot to restore it to the normal level.

Now that you have the file, what can you do with it? Well, if you have AMIBCP for Aptio, you can do anything you like, but since the demo kit costs $800 at AMI's website you can only reverse engineer the file yourself just like I did.

IMPORTANT: Do not attempt to flash the BIOS with the file you got this way or by using this utility! That goes especially if you modified the file in any way. It won't work, and the result will be an extremely expensive brick with a Sony logo. Standard disclaimer applies here as well.

I have attached a small tool I wrote yesterday to extract the EFI PE executables from the BIOS image. Bear in mind that the tool is not extracting the exact PE images - they are good enough for disassembling and reverse-engineering though. Usage of the tool is self-explanatory, just run it to see the command line syntax.

When you run the tool, you will get approximately 15 PE images in the same folder. Look for the one with the number 0009, size of ~9.4 KB or with Unicode strings SmmBasesVariable, CpuS3Resume, Setup near the end of the file - that file is responsible for programming the MSR 0x3A and thus for disabling Intel VT.

My goal is to determine which NVRAM variable holds the Enable/Disable flag, not to patch the code itself since the patching cannot be done in reliable manner while NVRAM should be modifiable using some (un)documented EFI interface.

In Sony VAIO VGN-FW190E BIOS version R0250Y0, the offending WRMSR is located at FFFD5BB1 where you can see three values being pushed on the stack -- msr_high_bits, msr_low_bits, msr_number (0x3A) followed by the function call which contains the actual WRMSR instruction.

I would really appreciate any help I can get.

Attachments: 

AttachmentSize
Download uefidecomp.zip31.05 KB
-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
eric-sardella (Intel)'s picture
Quoting - Igor Levicki

Another update in quest for my missing Intel VT:

If you too are interested in extracting your Aptio UEFI BIOS image from your Sony VAIO notebook you can get this file (right-click, Save As).

IMPORTANT: Do not run the file itself or you may brick your notebook! Neither Intel nor I will accept responsibility if you make a mistake!

Extract the contents of the EP0000169871.exe using WinZIP or WinRAR and keep only afuwin.exe, amifldrv32.sys, and amifldrv64.sys.

To read the contents of the flash and save it to a file type the following command in your command prompt window:

afuwin backup.rom /O

NOTE: The option on the command line is capital letter O, not zero, and you need to do this as the Administrator or afuwin.exe will not be able to install driver and access the flash interface.

The program will read out the flash and save a file. It will also set your CPU fan to 100% as a side effect, and you will have to reboot to restore it to the normal level.

Now that you have the file, what can you do with it? Well, if you have AMIBCP for Aptio, you can do anything you like, but since the demo kit costs $800 at AMI's website you can only reverse engineer the file yourself just like I did.

IMPORTANT: Do not attempt to flash the BIOS with the file you got this way or by using this utility! That goes especially if you modified the file in any way. It won't work, and the result will be an extremely expensive brick with a Sony logo. Standard disclaimer applies here as well.

I have attached a small tool I wrote yesterday to extract the EFI PE executables from the BIOS image. Bear in mind that the tool is not extracting the exact PE images - they are good enough for disassembling and reverse-engineering though. Usage of the tool is self-explanatory, just run it to see the command line syntax.

When you run the tool, you will get approximately 15 PE images in the same folder. Look for the one with the number 0009, size of ~9.4 KB or with Unicode strings SmmBasesVariable, CpuS3Resume, Setup near the end of the file - that file is responsible for programming the MSR 0x3A and thus for disabling Intel VT.

My goal is to determine which NVRAM variable holds the Enable/Disable flag, not to patch the code itself since the patching cannot be done in reliable manner while NVRAM should be modifiable using some (un)documented EFI interface.

In Sony VAIO VGN-FW190E BIOS version R0250Y0, the offending WRMSR is located at FFFD5BB1 where you can see three values being pushed on the stack -- msr_high_bits, msr_low_bits, msr_number (0x3A) followed by the function call which contains the actual WRMSR instruction.

I would really appreciate any help I can get.

Hi Igor -

I've forwared your concerns to the director of OEM enabling. I understand your frustration, but OEM's make the decision on what's in/what's out - based on a large set of parameters - like validation, market segment, cost, etc. I'll let you know what comes of it.

Thanks
Eric Sardella

Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - Eric Sardella (Intel)
Hi Igor -

I've forwared your concerns to the director of OEM enabling. I understand your frustration, but OEM's make the decision on what's in/what's out - based on a large set of parameters - like validation, market segment, cost, etc. I'll let you know what comes of it.

Thanks
Eric Sardella

Hello Eric!

Thanks for hearing me out, and I am sorry if it sounded a bit off-topic at the webinar, but I really felt it was worth your attention. I hope that the following arguments will convince you that Intel has to intervene:

People buy notebooks and prebuilt computers from OEMs based on the advertised specification.

Based on the specification available at the time of purchase on the OEM website, I was convinced that I would be able to use all the features the CPU has to offer. Unfortunately, that isn't possible.

Now, I don't mind if OEM choses to ship a notebook with VT disabled in BIOS, and with a disclaimer that they don't offer support for any issues you might have while using VT as long as they leave me the option to enable it.

In this particular case the notebook was a gift, so the money wasted on a feature which can't be used wasn't from my own pocket. However, if I bought it with my own money, and if I wanted a notebook without VT, then I would have chosen a less expensive CPU and saved some money in the process.

The main issue here is that conscious buyers who know which features they should expect from a particular SKU# are usually developers, and Intel is letting them down and leaving them at the mercy of OEMs.

Take a look at your own website:
http://processorfinder.intel.com/Details.aspx?sSpec=SLB3S

It is the CPU I have in my notebook. There is a disclaimer for EM64T and Execute Disable, but there is no disclaimer for Virtualization Technology.

Here you can read the product marketing specification (PDF) for my notebook - again no mention of the inability to use Virtualization Technology CPU feature. After all, it is a somewhat high-end notebook when you consider $1,799 price tag.

Finally, a Configure-To-Order page where it was ordered - again no mention that I won't be able to use Virtualization Technology.

As a developer, even though I cannot justify OEMs decision, I can at least understand that my inability to use VT isn't Intel's fault because after all the CPU does support the feature.

But tell me, what chance an Average Joe has at understanding and accepting that?

In the end they will turn to you because the OEM support will tell them the same lie they have told me - that the CPU doesn't support the feature. Moreover, Intel is the one getting money for an advertised feature customers cannot use. How will you handle that?

The current practice is deceiving to say the least, and as much as it may hurt the OEMs it will hurt the Intel Corporation as well.

So yesterday in a webinar when I saw "Faster Virtualization" on the slide I was really concerned. Intel is obviously investing a lot of effort into making and marketing of such a great feature which won't be able to reach the audience because of those narrow-minded men in the middle.

I believe that the control over CPU features has to be in the customer's hands. Intel got burnt once with the CPU serial number fiasco, and I was hoping that you have learned that lesson.

Finally, a suggestion on how to resolve the problem - since nowadays OEMs use mostly EFI based BIOS, may I suggest that Intel engineers write a unified CPU initialization EFI module which will be given to the OEMs for integration in the binary format so that they cannot enable/disable the features or hide the CPU related options from the end user? That module could also contain fresh CPU microcode updates and be a way to push those to the customers because OEMs have shown that they simply don't care about correcting errata. Let me know what you think about the idea.

Looking forward to hearing from you Eric!

Regards,
Igor Levicki

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
guido.neumann's picture

Dear Igor,

I absoluteley agree with you. This is a shame for Sony and also for Intel. I also had no success enabling VT support on my Sony Vaio VGN-FW21M (European Version) as it's based on AMI BIOS. There are just workarounds for Phoenix BIOS.

I mean we may could enable it if we got an AMIBCP version with APTIO support (v4.06). Please have also a look at the latest posts on this thread. http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?p=4531271#post4531271

Regards
Guido

Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - guido.neumann Dear Igor,

I absoluteley agree with you. This is a shame for Sony and also for Intel. I also had no success enabling VT support on my Sony Vaio VGN-FW21M (European Version) as it's based on AMI BIOS. There are just workarounds for Phoenix BIOS.

I mean we may could enable it if we got an AMIBCP version with APTIO support (v4.06). Please have also a look at the latest posts on this thread. http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?p=4531271#post4531271

Regards
Guido

Guido,
Please contact me via MSN, Skype, or via my website http://www.levicki.net/ feedback form. I have some questions for you.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
wzzrd's picture

Igor,

I just wanted to let you know I appreciate your endeavours enormously. I own an FW21E, was as surprised as you were when I found out VT was disabled. I contacted Sony about this to no avail. I do not posses the required technical skills to help you on this one, but I'll be watching this thread and the one on notebookreview.com.

Thanks!

Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - wzzrd Igor,

I just wanted to let you know I appreciate your endeavours enormously. I own an FW21E, was as surprised as you were when I found out VT was disabled. I contacted Sony about this to no avail. I do not posses the required technical skills to help you on this one, but I'll be watching this thread and the one on notebookreview.com.

Thanks!

Thanks for your support. I have been telling everyone at Intel that this is unacceptable and bad for business. I guess that more than 1500 views of this thread confirms it as a serious issue.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
Igor Levicki's picture

Good news everyone!

After a long session of reverse-engineering I have managed to enable VT by patching the BIOS.

I am currently writing a generic patch which should work for all Sony notebooks with Aptio based EFI BIOS - stay tuned!

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
Igor Levicki's picture

Here is a patch for Aptio based Sony notebooks, but please read the whole article most carefully before attempting anything -- I won't be the one responsible if you brick your notebook:

HOWTO: Enable Intel VT on Sony VAIO notebook with AMI Aptio EFI BIOS

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
lszantho's picture
Quoting - Igor Levicki

Here is a patch for Aptio based Sony notebooks, but please read the whole article most carefully before attempting anything -- I won't be the one responsible if you brick your notebook:

HOWTO: Enable Intel VT on Sony VAIO notebook with AMI Aptio EFI BIOS

Dear Igor,

I would like to ask you if you have found any solution, for Vaio notebooks with Phoenix BIOS, during your research. I have a VGN-NR498E and I would like to enable the VT flag. Even if I could install VirtualBox in Ubuntu 64, I know I have this feature and I can't use it...

Best regards,
Lucian

wzzrd's picture
Quoting - Igor Levicki

Here is a patch for Aptio based Sony notebooks, but please read the whole article most carefully before attempting anything -- I won't be the one responsible if you brick your notebook:

HOWTO: Enable Intel VT on Sony VAIO notebook with AMI Aptio EFI BIOS

Kudos dude. Just, wow. Really. I hope I'll be able to use it when it's released!

Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - lszantho
Dear Igor,

I would like to ask you if you have found any solution, for Vaio notebooks with Phoenix BIOS, during your research. I have a VGN-NR498E and I would like to enable the VT flag. Even if I could install VirtualBox in Ubuntu 64, I know I have this feature and I can't use it...

Best regards,
Lucian

http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=189228
http://www.wimsbios.com/phpBB2/topic9326-15.html

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
dmitrylp's picture
Im so sorry to hear such the sorrowful news, please accept my sincere condolences to you. Anyway, I truly hope you might to keep the interest to this topic.
Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - dmitrylp Im so sorry to hear such the sorrowful news, please accept my sincere condolences to you. Anyway, I truly hope you might to keep the interest to this topic.

Thank you very much for your kind words. It is not the interest in this topic that I have lost, it is my faithfull companion and with it my strength, motivation, and will to go on after experiencing such a tragic loss first hand. It will surely take some time to pick myself up and continue with what I was doing.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
Igor Levicki's picture

Good news, everyone!

Since nobody wanted to help and to push this issue with Sony so that they release an official BIOS update which enables Intel VT I decided to roll up my sleeves and to help people who were in the same position as me -- they couldn't use a CPU feature they paid for.

I have finalized permanent Intel VT enable patch for Sony VAIO notebooks with AMI Aptio BIOS. You can get it from my website Downloads section. Read the enclosed README.TXT carefully before attempting to use it.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
danieltr0815's picture
Quoting - Eric Sardella (Intel)

Hi Igor -

I've forwared your concerns to the director of OEM enabling. I understand your frustration, but OEM's make the decision on what's in/what's out - based on a large set of parameters - like validation, market segment, cost, etc. I'll let you know what comes of it.

Thanks
Eric Sardella

I do understand the need of OEMs to [not] support computer features, depending on business model.
What I'd propose to "the industry" would be in such cases, to have (menu) sections marked as "not supported". This would make it clear to users, that if they {dis,en}able features, they may not get support for resulting problems, while at the same time it is left up to the users to decide what is important to them.
BTW: Companies often forget, that it is a good thing for them to not only focus on "the majority of users", but to enable "professionals/power users" as well, as they are the ones giving trusted opinions to friends and colleagues.

Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Incdot's picture
Quoting - danieltr0815 I do understand the need of OEMs to [not] support computer features, depending on business model.
What I'd propose to "the industry" would be in such cases, to have (menu) sections marked as "not supported". This would make it clear to users, that if they {dis,en}able features, they may not get support for resulting problems, while at the same time it is left up to the users to decide what is important to them.
BTW: Companies often forget, that it is a good thing for them to not only focus on "the majority of users", but to enable "professionals/power users" as well, as they are the ones giving trusted opinions to friends and colleagues.

Personally I do not see why they disabled it. In embedded systems where I spend most of my time developing, if you do not expose every feature of a chip you're using you are practically wasting money. Enabling VT-x doesn't pose any support issues to Sony, and they certainly aren't using it as a way to drive sales to higher-priced models since NONE of the Vaio models support VT-x even with a VT-x supporting processor. As a professional in the area of software development and product development, I am extremely disappointed in Sony for intentionally crippling the most attractive feature of the chip. I would be using it to run several Linux distributions and build environments (OpenEmbedded/Poky, T2 and LTIB) for cross-compilation for target systems - and compile time and performance of the build environment is important to me (the difference between a few hours compiling 32-bit toolchains vs. 64-bit is ALL the difference I need to justify using the 64-bit virtualization). I implore, plead and beseech all Notebook and Desktop manufacturers - Sony especially - to seriously reconsider their support of this technology. I specifically purchased the VGN-FW390JAS with the P8600 processor rather than the T6400 model simply because of the support for VT-x (along with the lower TDP and potential for higher performance and battery life as secondary concerns, and of course the AMD graphics and Marvell ethernet which I have a personal soft spot for since we have dealt with both companies in my line of work) and now, while emulating a 32-bit environment is as workable as it ever was on my old VGN-S170P and Pentium 4 desktop, I feel ever so slightly cheated. The presence of a tiny one-line FAQ entry on their support site really does not do justice to notifying consumers of the inactive configured state of this feature. Thank you all for your time and patience, and here's hoping that Sony see the light and ship an updated BIOS to properly activate this feature without resorting to bricking our laptops. I only wish I had some push at Sony to help with this issue, and may I say that I am slightly disappointed in Intel for not wishing to persue the issue further at Igor's suggestion. -- Matt Sealey Product Development Analyst
Developer Relations Manager Genesi USA, Inc. - http://www.genesi-usa.com/
Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Incdot's picture

Question: would it not be possible to write a kernel driver for Windows Vista that activated VT without the BIOS, or boot some kind of patched bootloader (GRUB?) that could do it, so that BIOS didn't need to be patched, and no extra tools would be required?


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Matt Sealey
Product Development Analyst
Developer Relations Manager
Genesi USA, Inc. - http://www.genesi-usa.com/
Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - mwsealey Question: would it not be possible to write a kernel driver for Windows Vista that activated VT without the BIOS, or boot some kind of patched bootloader (GRUB?) that could do it, so that BIOS didn't need to be patched, and no extra tools would be required?

Hello Matt,

Unfortunately, the answer is no. BIOS code always loads first. Once it loads, the register is locked until the next power cycle.

Just to put thing in perspective, 668 Sony owners alone (and counting!) have downloaded my VT patch since March 4th and my website isn't very discoverable.

Come on Intel, please do something about this situation already!

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
dnt408's picture
Igor,

I'm in the same boat as you. I have the Sony VGN-Z520 Viao whiches used EFI too. Will your utilites work for my EFI too? It's doesn't seem to be AMi based but instead by some company named Insyde.

Quoting - Igor Levicki Good news, everyone!

Since nobody wanted to help and to push this issue with Sony so that they release an official BIOS update which enables Intel VT I decided to roll up my sleeves and to help people who were in the same position as me -- they couldn't use a CPU feature they paid for.

I have finalized permanent Intel VT enable patch for Sony VAIO notebooks with AMI Aptio BIOS. You can get it from my website Downloads section. Read the enclosed README.TXT carefully before attempting to use it.

Igor Levicki's picture

I believe I answered that a dozen times already -- Insyde is not supported by my patch. That is why it is important for Intel to push notebook vendors to enable us to change VT option in BIOS.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
sztupy's picture

I agree with all the things you said. I own an Aptio based MSI notebook which I bought just because it had a VT capable processor. Less did I know about the fact that if the bios does not have an option to enable it, then it won't be avaialable. Fortunately the 0x3a bit wasn't locked (which would mean that MSI simply didn't knew about the fact that a VT capable processor would need an option in the BIOS/EFI to enable this functionality), but it's still a big hassle to use the VT capabilities properly.

Computer manufacturers should know about the fact that virtualization is not something designed for the high-end developer user. Take a look at Windows 7 which is a consumer product, and which will have an XP SP3 virtualized so consumers can use legacy software products on it without much problems. This solution (which is designed for everyday business usage) however needs a VT capable processor in order to work, so "high-end" business notebooks, like the Sony Vaio series are out of luck.

But not only Intel needs to press OEMs to enable this functionality. BIOS manufacturers should also include in their developmenet kits more information about the usefulness of this option.

Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Incdot's picture
Quoting - Igor Levicki

Come on Intel, please do something about this situation already!

I would have thought this was far more important now that Microsoft released Windows 7 RC1 and "XP Mode" requires a VT-x enabled processor to operate. Even though updating to Windows 7 is not under the remit of Sony or OEMs until its released and even then only on new systems, it basically means that we have systems which can never (not for the want of trying) run the full gamut of functionality for enterprise use. I'm still *really* disappointed in Sony. I love my FW390 but.. running 32-bit guests is just slow and annoying compared to what I expected. They didn't even disable it.. VirtualBox and VMWare happily let you select that the processor supports VT-x and then fail miserably. It's definitely possible to turn off the feature so that these apps do not detect it at all and do not even try.
arjarj's picture
I'd just like to add my support to your campaign to get Sony to update their Bios code to support VT. I have a Sony VGN-AR71ZU and I find it incredible that Sony have disabled VT in the Bios. I cannot run the new XP mode in Windows 7 unless I manually hack my Bios and risk killing it.

Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Incdot's picture
Quoting - Eric Sardella (Intel)
Hi Igor -

I've forwared your concerns to the director of OEM enabling. I understand your frustration, but OEM's make the decision on what's in/what's out - based on a large set of parameters - like validation, market segment, cost, etc. I'll let you know what comes of it.

Thanks
Eric Sardella

Hi Eric, Has there been any progress on this? It would be nice to know if Intel dropped it as a lost cause or if Sony or ANY OEM responded. To cater to my virtualization needs I basically picked up a Shuttle SX38P2 and a Q8400 to get the work done (running Vista + 3 VMware instances). My laptop and a bunch of other machines in here (Linux based) all contribute to an OpenEmbedded compile farm. I really wish I could do this more portably though, as sometimes I need to do highly processor-intensive work in Linux and am not willing to throw away Vista or dual boot to do it. --
Matt Sealey
Product Development Analyst
Developer Relations Manager
Genesi USA, Inc. - http://www.genesi-usa.com/
Joseph Ashizawa's picture

Adding my support for this "call for action" thread. Have a Sony VAIO VGN-TT290-CTO SU9600 Core 2 Duo H20 / 4GB / InsydeH2O / SSD Raid 0. VT is disabled by Sony and inaccessible.

peterkorn's picture
Quoting - Igor Levicki Good folks at Intel I need your help.

...

I would like to add my voice to the set of Sony VAIO owners who want to have Intel VT features enabled. In my case I have a Sony VAIO VGN-Z31XN with the Insyde H2O bios. I need to do some work in 64-bit Vista, but my system came with only 32-bit Vista. I shrunk the paritition to use VirtualBox inside OpenSolaris 2008.11, only to discover that I could not have a 64-bit guest OS.

Sony - please allow me to enable Intel VT, even if you do not offer it as a supported option!

Thanks,

Peter Korn

Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - peterkorn

I would like to add my voice to the set of Sony VAIO owners who want to have Intel VT features enabled. In my case I have a Sony VAIO VGN-Z31XN with the Insyde H2O bios. I need to do some work in 64-bit Vista, but my system came with only 32-bit Vista. I shrunk the paritition to use VirtualBox inside OpenSolaris 2008.11, only to discover that I could not have a 64-bit guest OS.

Sony - please allow me to enable Intel VT, even if you do not offer it as a supported option!

Thanks,

Peter Korn

So far, both Intel and Sony seem to be ignoring the fact that so far 2054 VAIO owners have downloaded and used my BIOS patch for VT enabling.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Incdot's picture
Quoting - Igor Levicki

So far, both Intel and Sony seem to be ignoring the fact that so far 2054 VAIO owners have downloaded and used my BIOS patch for VT enabling.

And these are just the ones adventurous to even try it. Personally I downloaded it but.. have not risked bricking my laptop yet. I am waiting on Sony to do the decent thing..
Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Inc.

And these are just the ones adventurous to even try it. Personally I downloaded it but.. have not risked bricking my laptop yet. I am waiting on Sony to do the decent thing..

Well, out of 2054, only two persons managed to brick their notebooks and they got them fixed in the nearest service center. I would say that 0.1% failure rate isn't that much of a risk compared to 100% risk I have taken while I was developing the patch.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Incdot's picture
Quoting - Igor Levicki

Well, out of 2054, only two persons managed to brick their notebooks and they got them fixed in the nearest service center. I would say that 0.1% failure rate isn't that much of a risk compared to 100% risk I have taken while I was developing the patch.

I still don't have the balls to do it :D I did have one question, it says in your website that you have to run CrystalCPUID or your own program to properly enable the feature after boot, but I can't find your own utility.. maybe I had an old version of the tool? Also that VT-x would disable itself if you made your computer sleep (so running VMs at that time would be a horrible idea, too). That was another reason I did not want to patch it. With a real BIOS from Sony none of these problems would occur and in the end, I would rather see a legitimate solution from them than have to second-guess my choice of sleep or shutdown or remember to shut down VMs (I run VMWare Server so, they run in the background without any interaction from me, and I prefer the Linux VM to boot up on boot with a 120 second delay..)
Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Inc.

I still don't have the balls to do it :D I did have one question, it says in your website that you have to run CrystalCPUID or your own program to properly enable the feature after boot, but I can't find your own utility.. maybe I had an old version of the tool? Also that VT-x would disable itself if you made your computer sleep (so running VMs at that time would be a horrible idea, too). That was another reason I did not want to patch it. With a real BIOS from Sony none of these problems would occur and in the end, I would rather see a legitimate solution from them than have to second-guess my choice of sleep or shutdown or remember to shut down VMs (I run VMWare Server so, they run in the background without any interaction from me, and I prefer the Linux VM to boot up on boot with a 120 second delay..)

I really can't help you with your balls issue, but I can tell you that the latest patcher is permanently enabling VT so there is no need for any additional tools and you can even suspend/resume with VM running.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Incdot's picture
Quoting - Igor Levicki

I really can't help you with your balls issue, but I can tell you that the latest patcher is permanently enabling VT so there is no need for any additional tools and you can even suspend/resume with VM running.

Fair enough! I may well try that tonight on my VGN-FW390 (which I believe should work fine I saw some forum posts round and about that had good results).
Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Inc.

Fair enough! I may well try that tonight on my VGN-FW390 (which I believe should work fine I saw some forum posts round and about that had good results).

Good luck!

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Incdot's picture
Quoting - Igor Levicki

Good luck!

Thankyou! I found my balls and updated the BIOS and now I have VT-x. I already noticed a considerable improvement in my compile times in my 32-bit VM - now to update all the OS to 64-bit :)
Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Inc.

Thankyou! I found my balls and updated the BIOS and now I have VT-x. I already noticed a considerable improvement in my compile times in my 32-bit VM - now to update all the OS to 64-bit :)

I am glad it worked for you. In the meantime, download counter for VTPatch.rar on my website reached 2067 downloads.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
shermantenor's picture
Quoting - Igor Levicki
I am glad it worked for you. In the meantime, download counter for VTPatch.rar on my website reached 2067 downloads.

Igor - just a short note of thanks. I had planned to purchase the new Vaio Z Series 790CTO and have decided to look elsewhere due to this issue.

I posted a comment on the Sony knowledgebase article which basically says that VT isn't supported in which I made it clear this was the reason I wouldn't likely purchase their product.

I can't understand how a company can position a product as for business and disable this feature - completely backwards!

Intel needs to step up here to ensure that computers shipped with VT capable processors have this function enabled - or display a prominent disclaimer advertising the fact that VT is disabled.

I almost shelled out over $2000 for something that would have been practically useless for my purposes. Sony is quick enough to list the processor model which is included, but leaves out that they purposefully cripple the firmware to disable the processor's features.

I don't understand why Sony doesn't opt to save some money and buy non-VT processors for these machines. This would drive the cost down, and ultimately people would know by the Intel Processor inside if the computer supports VT or not.

Ive noticed that Sony has added a small Windows 7 logo on their CTO screen for the Z790 strange as one of the core features for business users is not going to work period. When folks realize that Microsoft is only allowing XP Compatibility Mode to run on VT enabled machines, the general public will become keenly aware of which machines to stay away from. At the moment, that would be computers made by Sony.

-- ST

karolbe's picture
Hi Igor

There was some progress on modifying the Insyde H2O BIOS so it means that there is a chance that a similar patch to yours could be created. Of course assuming that some skilled hackers would be interested to do it. I have managed to decompile the BIOS and have located a few places with following code fragments:

000895A1 67 66 0F 01 15 lgdt [di]
000895A6 00 00 add [eax], al
000895A8 00 00 add [eax], al
000895AA 66 B8 00 00 mov ax, 0x0000
000895AE 00 00 add [eax], al
000895B0 0F 22 E0 mov cr4, eax
000895B3 66 B9 80 00 mov cx, 0x0080
000895B7 00 C0 add al, al
000895B9 0F 32 rdmsr
000895BB 80 CC 01 or ah, 0x01
000895BE 0F 30 wrmsr
000895C0 66 B8 00 00 mov ax, 0x0000
000895C4 00 00 add [eax], al

but since I am not X86 hacker I am unable to continue...

Anyway, can you at least tell me what should I look in the BIOS (basing on you experience with Phoenix BIOS)? And no, I am not going to patch it by myself, but at least maybe I will find some experienced hacker who would be interested to do it.

Thanks
Karol

kandrei's picture

Igor, thank you for this wonderful patch. I've applied it on a Sony Vaio VGN-FW21M and it worked flawlesly. One thing though, I'm using grc.com's securable to check the status of the VT feature and it shows it as Locked ON after the first reboot, and it remained like this after the first standby/resume, so maybe I won't have to enable it every time the computer boots or comes out of standby.

The content of the MSR register 0x3a was 0x00000009 before patching and 0x0000000d after patching.

Igor Levicki's picture
@Karol:

That code you posted doesn't have anything to do with VT setup, you are looking at the wrong spot.

Quoting - kandrei Igor, thank you for this wonderful patch. I've applied it on a Sony Vaio VGN-FW21M and it worked flawlesly. One thing though, I'm using grc.com's securable to check the status of the VT feature and it shows it as Locked ON after the first reboot, and it remained like this after the first standby/resume, so maybe I won't have to enable it every time the computer boots or comes out of standby.

The content of the MSR register 0x3a was 0x00000009 before patching and 0x0000000d after patching.

The latest patch version turns on VT permanently, there is no need to enable it on each reboot.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
geekster's picture
Can I just say .....?

This is all a moot point for almost ALL sony vaios (except their business class, higher price vaios).
Intel DOES NOT offer VT on all of its cpus.
AMD does lately. But Intel has certain market tiers and they sell accordingly. Consumers are not expected by and large to be doing so much software development that they would use hardware virtualization to test programs on different OSes so intensely. Either intel lowers the price on the consumer cpu without VT or they raise the price on business/developer class cpus that have VT.

Changing the bios by flashing or any other hack will only change the firmware/software data. It won't actually enable HARDWARE VT because there is no HARDWARE VT to enable. You're just fooling yourself with a sign.

You can still run a virtual machine without hardware VT, you just have less speed than if you ran on a cpu with hardware VT.

As cool and admirable as this effort is to really make your computer do what you want and to escape manufacturer restrictions, this particular effort is just a fun hack that may be useful in other situations.

But with consumer vaios, it's just a bit of risk to the laptop with no real benefit in the end. It isn't Sony's fault that there's no VT, it's intel's.

Don't believe me? Just use intel's "comparison tool" on their cpu product page and then find the cpu model of any vaio (from your country's sony page of course) to see. Except for the business class vaios, I think none of them have cpus with hardware VT.

http://ark.intel.com/ProductCollection.aspx?familyID=26548

If you have a vaio with a cpu that does have VT enabled, and the bios locks you out, then great idea.

But I'm just saying be careful and you should make this clearer. A lot of people may try to do this assuming that their cpu has hardware VT, and risk their laptop for really nothing.

Matt Sealey, Genesi USA, Incdot's picture
Quoting - geekster Can I just say .....?

This is all a moot point for almost ALL sony vaios (except their business class, higher price vaios).
Intel DOES NOT offer VT on all of its cpus.

Changing the bios by flashing or any other hack will only change the firmware/software data. It won't actually enable HARDWARE VT because there is no HARDWARE VT to enable. You're just fooling yourself with a sign.

You can still run a virtual machine without hardware VT, you just have less speed than if you ran on a cpu with hardware VT.

As cool and admirable as this effort is to really make your computer do what you want and to escape manufacturer restrictions, this particular effort is just a fun hack that may be useful in other situations.

But with consumer vaios, it's just a bit of risk to the laptop with no real benefit in the end. It isn't Sony's fault that there's no VT, it's intel's.

Don't believe me? Just use intel's "comparison tool" on their cpu product page and then find the cpu model of any vaio (from your country's sony page of course) to see. Except for the business class vaios, I think none of them have cpus with hardware VT.

http://ark.intel.com/ProductCollection.aspx?familyID=26548

If you have a vaio with a cpu that does have VT enabled, and the bios locks you out, then great idea.

But I'm just saying be careful and you should make this clearer. A lot of people may try to do this assuming that their cpu has hardware VT, and risk their laptop for really nothing.

We all know we have Intel CPUs with VT-x enabled; I have a P8600 (R0 stepping) in my FW390 - this chip is one that Intel only ships with VT-x capability, there are 4 steppings available all with VT-x. There are not two different versions of the CPU with VT-x and without VT-x but there may be 3 or 4 model numbers of the LAPTOP (mine is an FW390JAS) with and without VT-x with different CPUs on a sliding price scale. Since Sony let you upgrade a certain laptop part number from models with and without VT-x (the other option for me was a cheaper model with a T series processor, which does not have VT-x). I can understand Sony may be wanting to unify their BIOS support across the processor lines, but detecting VT-x in the BIOS and showing the option to enable or disable it only on those chips that support it is not exactly difficult (most other vendors manage it just fine on desktop processors which can be swapped in and out, within reason). The point is that we all bought Vaios and we all bought them on the understanding that - after checking Intel's Processor Finder that a chip had VT-x - we would pick a specific Vaio model to get the feature, only to find that it is locked out.
Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - geekster Can I just say .....?

Sure you can, but it doesn't mean you are right.

>>Intel DOES NOT offer VT on all of its cpus.<<

Nobody said it does, but:

1. Majority of CPUs have VT

2. Sony sells majority of notebooks with VT capable CPUs and is charging the full price for the CPU even though it is locking out one of the most usefull features
.

>>intel lowers the price on the consumer cpu without VT<<

Yes it does, but Sony doesn't pass the price reduction on to the consumers who buy their notebook.

>>Changing the bios by flashing or any other hack will only change the firmware/software data. It won't actually enable HARDWARE VT because there is no HARDWARE VT to enable. You're just fooling yourself with a sign.<<

You really don't have a clue, don't you?

This page says you don't:

http://processorfinder.intel.com/Details.aspx?sSpec=SLB3S

That is the CPU I have in my Sony notebook and as you can see it has hardware VT support.

>>You can still run a virtual machine without hardware VT, you just have less speed than if you ran on a cpu with hardware VT.<<

Partially true.

1. You can't run Windows XP Mode virtual machine without hardware VT in Windows 7 because latest version of Microsoft Virtual PC requires hardware VT.

2. I paid the price of a full CPU (Core 2 Duo Mobile P8600) so I want full goddamn virtualizaton speed -- I would never settle for less than that.

>>this particular effort is just a fun hack that may be useful in other situations.<<

My patch which enables hardware VT has been downloaded 2,451 times so far, and I only get "thanks" via email, Facebook, MSN and forums, and not a single complaint so far. That puts it a lot higher on a scale than you just rated it with your baseless opinion.

>>But with consumer vaios, it's just a bit of risk to the laptop with no real benefit in the end.<<

There is no risk -- patch is 100% safe. It checks that the CPU really supports hardware VT before patching.

The benefit is hardware VT enabled. Get a FW series VAIO and test it yourself -- try running Windows XP Mode with and without the patch and let us know how it goes.

>>It isn't Sony's fault that there's no VT, it's intel's.<<

That is completely untrue -- Intel's only fault is in allowing Sony to cripple the CPUs via software instead of ordering physically crippled and thus cheaper CPUs and passing the cost saving to the customers.

>>I think none of them have cpus with hardware VT.<<

There, I underlined the key difference between you and me -- you "think", and I have checked before I committed myself into doing this patch.

Check your own link, but select any other CPU family except T5xxx because we are not talking about entry level notebook models here:

http://ark.intel.com/ProductCollection.aspx?familyID=26548

You will see that almost every single one of them HAS hardware VT.

>>If you have a vaio with a cpu that does have VT enabled, and the bios locks you out, then great idea.<<

Congratulations, you finally figured it out!

We do have VAIOs with hardware VT and BIOS locks us out. That's why I made this patch. Do you really think that I would waste my time to write useless patch?!?

>>A lot of people may try to do this assuming that their cpu has hardware VT, and risk their laptop for really nothing.<<

They may try for as long as they want, and absolutely nothing will ever happen if their CPU doesn't have hardware VT support or if any other pre-requisites are not met.

I believe you owe me an apology for spreading FUD about my work.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
horiae's picture
Quoting - Igor Levicki

Well, out of 2054, only two persons managed to brick their notebooks and they got them fixed in the nearest service center. I would say that 0.1% failure rate isn't that much of a risk compared to 100% risk I have taken while I was developing the patch.

Hi Igor! I've successfully managed to patch my VAIO FW11M using your program and I registered on this forum only to say thank you. I'm so happy that virtual machines run smoother now. God bless you!

Igor Levicki's picture
Quoting - horiae

Hi Igor! I've successfully managed to patch my VAIO FW11M using your program and I registered on this forum only to say thank you. I'm so happy that virtual machines run smoother now. God bless you!


Thank you. If you are a developer you are welcome to stay at those forums, and depending on your skill you can either learn or contribute.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.
Igor Levicki's picture

Good news for those who were bugging me about VAIO Z!

It seems that people have found a way to enable VT on VAIO Z:

Enable VT on InsydeH2O based Sony VAIO

Try it if you want, but don't forget that the risk is solely yours.

-- Regards, Igor Levicki If you find my post helpfull, please rate it and/or select it as a best answer where applies. Thank you.

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