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I'm sure this has been discussed time and again, but a search is not getting me any definitive answers to my question.
I've always booted Slackware with an initrd until recently. With my new installation of Slack Current (13.37), I didn't bother to create an initrd because of the constantly updating/transient nature of the current branch at the moment.
My question is this: when 13.37 does go final in a few days, should I go back to my normal practice of booting with an initrd?
Also, I think I understand how the initial ramdisk works, but is it really needed with the more modern kernels?
Thanks in advance...
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Initrd is needed when you build things that are necessary to boot as modules, and thus are stored separately from the kernel on the HDD. For example filesystem support. The bootloader knows where the kernel is on the disk, and so can load it without needing anything. However, it doesn't know where the modules are and cannot access them without some modules, like filesystem support, IDE or SATA support, etc (catch22). So, you just make an initrd, which is an image containing these modules that is loaded with the kernel into RAM. piratesmack is correct, in that the huge kernels have everything built-in and thus don't need an initrd. However, if you make a custom kernel, like I do, I build in the things that are needed and leave the rest as modules, which is obviously the best thing to do. No bloated kernel, no initrd.
For me, there are good reasons to use an initrd instead of using the huge kernel. I don't always run Slackware on "modern" hardware but I still want to be able to run a "modern" kernel.
Size: The generic kernel takes up < 1/2 the RAM, and I can shrink that further with configuration customizations, as needed, not only for my main multi gigabyte, multi CPU box, but also for my PIII laptops with 256-512MB of RAM
Speed: initrd/generic boots faster. YMMV
control: I only load what I need, which gives speed, RAM and HD savings, stability, and security.