Questions about setting up a new computer

Joel Roth joelz at
Sat Jul 16 22:36:43 UTC 2016

Hi John,

If  you are working in the console, you won't generally need high
performance hardware.  If you compile a lot of software, or
do disk intensive work, a solid-state disk is nice. I notice
powerful processors make a difference in compressing video
and any scientific computing. 

A big issue in new hardware is uefi vs BIOS booting.
And in that motherboards shipped with the microsoft
signed boot loading restrictions.

BIOS has been around a long time, and easy to deal with
in a linux environment.

Have fun,

John J. Boyer wrote:
> Thanks for the information. I had forgotten some of the Linux terms, 
> such as swap file or partition. How do I go about setting up a tmpfs?
> The installation will be command-line only Braille only Debian. I might 
> add a desktop later, but I don't want it to be automatically loaded at 
> boot time.
> What CPU would be appropriae. I would guess something recent, but not 
> the latest.
> Thanks,
> John
> On Sat, Jul 16, 2016 at 02:06:45PM -0400, Sam Hartman wrote:
> > >>>>> "John" == John J Boyer <john.boyer at> writes:
> > 
> >     John> I've more or less decided to replacer my ten-year-old Linux
> >     John> machine. It is giving error messages intermittently. Most of
> >     John> them are about sector errors, but others seem to have nothing
> >     John> to do with the hard drive. It may be more and more
> >     John> troublesome, even if the hard drive is replaced.  Besides, it
> >     John> would be nice to get more up-to-date hardware.
> > 
> >     John> I'm thinking of getting 32 GB of ram. 8 GB will be for normal
> >     John> use. The other 24 GB will be in a ramdisk.
> > 
> > I think you must have a DOS background here.
> > An explicit RAM disk is rarely if ever useful on Linux.  I'm tryinfg to
> > remember if I even know how to create a block device backed by RAM... O,
> > yeah, I can think of a way,  but you probably don't want to do that.
> > 
> > Instead, you probably do want to create something called a tmpfs.
> > That's a filesystem backed by RAM.  When your computer reboots all its
> > contents go away.
> > 
> > There are important differences between a tmpfs and a RAM disk.
> > The biggest is that Linux will only use as much RAM as is needed by the
> > tmpfs to store what currently lives in it.
> > (You can set a maximum size, but with 32g I wouldn't bother)
> > 
> > So, you can get the best of both worlds, storing your temporary files in
> > RAM, but using RAM for RAM if you don't have 24G of temporary files at
> > the moment.
> > 
> > 
> >     John> Do I need a paging
> >     John> file? 8 GB of available ram should be more than enough. The
> >     John> paging file on my present machine always shows 0 usage, even
> >     John> with only 4 GB of ram.
> > 
> > 
> > Having a paging file has a couple of affects even if it is not used, but
> > no, you probably don't want a swap partition or file (linux names for
> > paging)
> > 
> >     John> How do I avoid setting up a paging file
> >     John> during installation? I'm using Debian Jessie.
> > 
> > In expert mode, avoid creating a swap partition and if asked don't
> > create a swap file.
> > If you don't want to use expert mode, don't worry about it; having a
> > swap partition won't be a problem.
> > 
> >     John> How do i set up the ramdisk? I want to assign the temp
> >     John> directory to it.  
> > 
> > I think the installer will do that by default.
> > But in /etc/fstab you want a line like
> > 
> > none				/tmp			tmpfs				defaults		0	0
> > 
> >     John> It might be nice if the
> >     John> bin, sbin and usr
> >     John> directories were loaded onto it at boot-up.
> > 
> > No need for that.
> > Linux is also smart enough to cache files  as they are used, storing
> > copies in memory, so no value in moving them to the tmpfs.
> > 
> > The file will be loaded the first time it is used.
> > You could do that at boot for /bin, /sbin and /usr, but you probably
> > don't want to.  The reason is that the system is fairly busy at boot,
> > and it would probably slow down things like bringing up your desktop and
> > starting system services.  The only advantage of pre-caching files on
> > boot would be faster performance the first time you accessed a program
> > after pre-caching is done.  However you get slower boot times and slower
> > performance during the pre-caching.
> -- 
> John J. Boyer; President,
> AbilitiesSoft, Inc.
> Email: john.boyer at
> Website:
> Status: 501(C)(3) Nonprofit
> Location: Madison, Wisconsin USA
> Mission: To develop softwares and provide STEM services for people with 
>          disabilities which are available at no cost.
> _______________________________________________
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Joel Roth

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