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installation report for Debian 10 (buster) on a Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1

Dear all,

as promised, here comes an installation report of Debian Buster on a Dell Inspirion 14 2-in-1 laptop in the hope that it may be useful to someone else. (By the way, there used to be a website that collected these installation reports, but I cannot find it any more... Any ideas of where I could publish and keep updated this report?)

The main problem turned out to be a lack of support for the i7-10510U by kernels prior to version 5.4, so currently I see no shorter route than mine: I have installed normally, booted into console and compiled a new kernel from source. Of course the situation may get better when newer kernels will become available in the Debian repositories.

* first the SSD drive must be set in AHCI mode (as opposed to RAID) in the UEFI-BIOS. Unfortunately, Windows on the first boot sets it to RAID and then loads only the drivers for RAID: if one simply changes the setting in UEFI, Windows will not be able to boot any more. One possible procedure is to set Windows to boot in safe mode, change the UEFI setting and then reset the Windows boot. In this way, Windows will find the disk in AHCI mode when booting in safe mode and will manage to boot and set itself for loading AHCI drivers, so that normal boots will succed afterwards. The following links illustrate possible procedures to achieve this. (Note: I wonder if entering UEFI before the first boot into Windows and change the setting there might avoid this hassle altogether)



Of course if you wish to keep Windows installed (useful e.g. to test the hardware...) you'll need to shrink the Windows partition before installing Debian.

* remeber that right after the install (Nov 2019), you'll have no graphics system and no wifi. It is thus useful and almost mandatory to have an USB ethernet adapter, a supported USB WIFI adapter or even just an USB cable to use the tethering function of your mobile...

* the installer will want to install the firmware-iwlwifi package. It could be useful to have it on a USB stick (in the root directory of the stick), but for me the WiFi adapter did not work out-of-the-box, so this is kind of useless with the current version (Nov 2019) of kernel/iwlwifi module and firmware. Nevertheless it is worth a try, in case newer versions bacame available in the Debian repos.

* fire up the Debian 10 installer and follow the usual steps to install your favourite tasks and finish it off by installing grub.

* Right after installation the pc will reboot into a terminal or may not even complete the boot sequence, but blacklisting intel_lpss_pci should do the trick: access the GRUB menu, highlight the "Adavanced options" and press "e" to edit the kernel command line, remove "quiet" and add "module_blacklist=intellpss_pci", then press F10 to boot. I had also success by booting in single core mode (kernel option "nosmp"). In order to fix these problems you'll need a recent enough kernel and a patched intel_lpsss_pci driver. I have observed different behaviours with kernels from different linux-image-amd64 packages (versions from buster, buster-backports, experimental), so your milage may vary here, but in general it sohuld be getting better and better when new kernel versions become available in Debian

* wifi will most likely not be working at this point, so you'll need an alternative network connection for the following steps

* fix support for the i7-10510U and Intel UHD-620 graphics
I have found very useful the discussions and instructions at https://www.reddit.com/r/Dell/comments/cx0fkc/xps_13_2_in_1_7390_linux_boot_attempt/. In orderᅵ to have graphics working correctly, after install you need to upgrade the kernel to at least version 5.4 (from buster-backports, experimental or compiling it from the sources at linux.org). I have mainly followed the procedure at section 4.6 of the Debian kernel handbook at https://kernel-team.pages.debian.net/kernel-handbook/ch-common-tasks.html#s-common-official. (Note: I have actually cloned a git repo for the kernel and not the tarballs since I foresee having to track the most recent kernels for an up-to-date support of all the hardware of this machine) At the time of writing (kernel 5.4-rc8), you'll need to apply a patch to the intel_lpss_pci module.ᅵ The author of the above reddit has also set up a git repo with useful code and patches. Have a look at the script opt/scripts/build-custom-kernel.sh from https://gitlab.com/emrose/xps13-7390_debian.git, but keep in mind that it targets an XPS model and an older kernel version. On the Inspiron 14 2-in-1 I had to apply only the lpss.patch in the directory opt/patches of the git repo and the other ones do not seem to be needed.

* nVidia MX230 support
I have currently blacklisted the "nouveau" driver and will look later at this issue or at least figure out a way to power off the card

* wifi support
ᅵ It appears that the backport of the most recent iwlwifi driver is still needed with 5.4 (see the procedure in the backport-wireless.sh script in the same git repo as above), but on my machine it did not fix completely the wifi problem: after patching the driver and downloading the new firmware, the wifi card gets recognized and can scan networks, but the whole system hangs while trying to connect to a wifi network.

(These issue needs to be tested more thoroughly: could someone point me to a guide to setup a wifi connection from the terminal so that I can see the output of each command?)

* touchscreen and pen
ᅵ When using the 5.4 kernel with the lpss patch, the touchscreen works both when used with fingers and with the pen (using the PN350M by Dell), including pressure sensitivity and one of the buttons. The only issue with the button is that, e.g. in xournal++, pressing the upper button on the pen changes the tool "eraser" but then touching the screen reverts the tool back to "pen". This seems to be a common problem linked to libinput and a possible workaround is the following procedure: first make contact with the screen, then press the button and start erasing without loosing the contact with the screen.

Instead the lower button on the pen does not seem to do anything. (any ideas here?)

I have observed that monitor-sensors reports correctly the laptop position, so automatic screen and touchpad rotation could be probaly achieved e.g. as in https://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?t=278448, but I have not tested it yet.

* suspend and hibernate: I have tested them with the patched 5.4 kernel and they worked out of the box.


ᅵᅵᅵ Matteo

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