Questions about setting up a new computer

John J. Boyer john.boyer at
Mon Jul 18 20:07:50 UTC 2016

Hi John,

I typed apt-get install gnome-orca. It is ready to go if I type yes. 
However, i have a couple of concerns. Will the desktop come up the next 
time I boot? I want to be sure the boot is in command-line moded. Orca 
was using an old and buggy version of liblouis. It replaced the good 
version that I was using for translation. Something to do with the 
search path for .so files.


On Mon, Jul 18, 2016 at 01:53:50PM -0500, John G. Heim wrote:
> I recommended the SSD drive because you seemed so concerned about speed.
> Everything you say below sounds right to me. You cannot save a significant
> amount of money buying less than 8Gb of ram or a hard drive smaller than
> 1Tb. You will be able to switch to a gui some time in the future.
> If you are going to install debian yourself, basically what you want to do
> is to unselect the graphical user interface when it gets to the page where
> you select software to install. And then after you are finished with the
> install, use apt to install the graphical user interface as a separate step.
> I've done this many times myself but not for a year or so and my memory is a
> little fuzzy. I think the gui (or it might be called the desktop) is item 10
> or 11 and it is selected by default. You have to unselect it and then
> continue with the install. After it finishes and you reboot, it will be in
> character mode.  I think you can then install the gui by simply typing
> "apt-get install gnome-orca". That will install orca, gnome, and all of
> their dependencies. You can then start the gui by typing "startx".
> Well, that's from memory. I could try it at home sometime soon but I won't
> have time to try it until next week.
> On 07/17/2016 03:53 PM, John J. Boyer wrote:
> >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?
> >
> >Thanks,
> >John
> >
> >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
> >>>>
> >>_______________________________________________
> >>Blinux-list mailing list
> >>Blinux-list at
> >>
> -- 
> --
> John G. Heim; jheim at; sip://

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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