Let the first post of this blog be about the Vivaldi browser. Well, partly at least. It’s also an adventurous tale of installing a 32 bit Linux distribution on an old Dell tablet and then getting it to run 64 bit applications.
So I have this old Dell VenuePro 11 tablet. It’s a device from 2014 and it came with 32 bit Windows 8.1 installed. This got upgraded to Windows 10 at some point, after which things became rather slow. Vivaldi ran on it, but sluggishly; things like pinch zoom in Google Maps worked, but too slow to be actually useful.
In my experience, Linux runs smoother on older hardware, so I decided to install Linux on the tablet. This webpage says it can be done and was a big help during the process. First I tried some of the latest versions of Ubuntu, Mint and Fedora, but the tablet didn’t seem to want to boot their installation USBs, even after disabling the Windows Boot Manager in BIOS. The aforementioned webpage says something about a 32 bit UEFI boot loader being required and I figured that maybe newer 64 bit distributions don’t include it anymore. So I tried a 32 bit distribution instead. Debian just released their Bookwork release and it seems to be one of the few distributions still supporting 32 bit, so I tried to boot their 32 bit USB installer and it worked without problems. Everything got detected and configured properly, except for the WIFI, for which I needed to copy the HW3.0 directory from here to /lib/firmware/ath6k/AR6004. This enabled wifi, though it tends to crash every few hours now, after which a reboot is needed. I haven´t managed to get Bluetooth working.
Then I needed a browser on my shiny new 32 bit Debian. Firefox ESR came preinstalled, which is a somewhat old version of a fine browser, but I prefer Vivaldi so I tried to download that. Unfortunately, there is no 32 bit version of Vivaldi anymore for Linux (there is for Windows, somehow). So I needed a way to run 64 bit programs on my 32 bit Debian. Magically, this turned out to be possible in some fashion using a Debian feature called multiarch. I installed the 64 bit kernel as described in chapter 5 of this article and it worked fine. So I then had a 64 bit kernel running 32 bit binaries and I managed to install the 64 bit Vivaldi .deb file without problems.
Vivaldi runs fine and using it with the touchscreen works well. Scrolling and pinch zoom work a lot faster than they did on Windows 10. The only issue is that the on-screen keyboard doesn’t pop up if I click a text field. This does work in Firefox if I set the environment variable MOZ_ENABLE_WAYLAND. Vivaldi has some Wayland related settings as well: https://forum.vivaldi.net/topic/24429/wayland-support. Starting Vivaldi with –enable-features=UseOzonePlatform –ozone-platform=wayland seems to make scrolling smoother, but it doesn’t help for the on-screen keyboard. It’s not a serious problem though, because I can get the keyboard by dragging from the bottom of the screen.
So there we have it: 64 bit Vivaldi on a mixed 32 bit/64 bit Debian Bookworm Linux. There are two things I’m wondering:
- Why is Linux so much faster than Windows 10 on this particular device? Does it use the 2 Gb RAM more efficiently so that less swapping happens? Is it the lack of virus protection in Debian?
- Now that I have a 64 bit kernel, is it worth the trouble switching all the 32 bit binaries to 64 bit? If I understand correctly, the 64 bit ones should run faster. But they’re also probably bigger and use more RAM, of which there isn’t a lot.