Archive for November 9th, 2009

Howto: Linux on Compact Flash Cards

Earlier this year, I replaced my Linux desktop machine – which was a dual 500MHz Pentium II with 1GB RAM and a pair of SCSI drives on a RAID card – with a newer, more powerful 1.8GHz Mini-ITX machine in a tiny little case. It’s faster, it’s smaller, it’s quieter, and it uses a lot less energy – what’s not to like?

Well, for me, the fact that the case only has room for a single 2.5″ hard drive. I got spoiled by having RAID – and, arguably, I’d been spoiled by having some pretty nice 7200RPM SCSI drives, and I really wanted two drives in the new machine, as well. What was I to do?

Easy: Compact Flash cards on IDE adapters, that’s what.

I wasn’t trying to make a poor man’s SSD – I just wanted something that would fit where a laptop hard drive was supposed to go.

The results were absolutely abysmal. Completely unacceptable – we’re talking 170MHz SPARCStation territory here, while running KDE under Debian. Even dropping from software RAID to just using bare CF cards didn’t help matters significantly. Nor did spending extra on really “high-speed” compact flash cards, either.

I should have just used a regular old hard drive, but I persisted, in large part to prove it could be done – and learn how, along the way.

Several months of testing, fighting, and researching later, I’ve got the low-down on how to do Linux on Compact Flash with as few headaches as possible – and some of the recommendations might really surprise you.
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on November 9th, 2009 | 6 Comments »