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well these days the use of swapspace is really not necessary...back in the day the rule of thumb was to have double the amount of ram as swap space, but thats when machines had little ram, etc, etc....with 512, and if you wanna be "safe" then i don't think it would be necessary to have any more then a 500meg swap partition...
unless you are using your machine for a heavy load like running a large database or something, then maybe you would want to consider a little bigger swap space..
You have 512MB of DDR RAM and you're concerned about sparing 512MB of HD space? That's unique! Anyway, I'm not sure if most distros will allow you to install without declaring <i> some</i> swap space. Personally I would always use some swap --- for the times when your system needs a little extra. It's not going to hurt you. I have 512MB of PC2700 DDR and my system uses swap on a regular basis.
I'd be curious to know, however, if you can actually install the OS without swap....and if so, how the system performs.