Questions about setting up a new computer

John J. Boyer john.boyer at
Sun Jul 17 20:53:33 UTC 2016

With the information i have received from the list I would now say that 
8 GB of RAM is more than enough. Since Linux caches files in memory, the 
value of an SSD is debatable. I'll probably get a 1 TB hard drive. The 
performance with my present hard drive is fast enough, and 1 TB drives 
are cheap.

I'll stick with a desktop tower and have bluetooth, an ethernet gigabit 
port, USB 2.9 and 3.0 ports, etc.

How would I set up Debian so that it boots in command-line mode but I 
can start a desktop when I want it? Which desktop is most like Windows? 
Right now I have a new VGA monitor for work with sighted colleagues. 
Would this be enough?


On Sun, Jul 17, 2016 at 12:16:35PM -0500, John G. Heim wrote:
> I was going to say the same thinga bout getting 32 Gb of ram. The main
> reason most people get as much as 32Gb for their personal workstations is
> for on-line gaming. Or if you are into creating virtual machines you might
> be able to use 32Gb of ram. But here at the Math Department at the UW, the
> only machines we have with 32Gb of ram are used for research like modelling
> cloud formations. None of  our web server, mail server, database server, or
> file server have 32 GB of ram. I think you could combine all 4 of those
> functions onto one server and still get by with less than 32Gb of ram. If it
> was me, I'd spend my money on an SSD drive.
> As for the cpu, at the Math department, we have bought nothing but Intel I5
> machines for the past several years. It used to be that Intel and AMD would
> leapfrog each other with each new cpu release. But that hasn't happened
> lately. I think the money Intel has been abel to spend on research has put
> them ahead for good. I have a brand new PC on my desk at work but I turned
> it off for the weekend. I can't see the cpu model right now but I know it is
> some type of Intel I5. But the last 2 groups of machines we bought had Intel
> I5-4570 and I5-4590 cpus. If you are doing something that actually will use
> 32Gb of ram, you might get an Intel I7 processor to go with that. But again,
> I'd spend my money on an SSD drive.
> On 07/16/2016 05:36 PM, Joel Roth wrote:
> >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,
> >
> >Joel
> >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.
> >>
> >>_______________________________________________
> >>Blinux-list mailing list
> >>Blinux-list at
> >>
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John J. Boyer; President,
AbilitiesSoft, Inc.
Email: john.boyer at
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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