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Old 09-23-2016, 06:13 AM   #1
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HowTo Use one computer's RAM as poor man's SSD for another computer

I have posted a new How-To, describing how to use one computer as a poor man's SSD for another computer.

For example, suppose you have two cheap laptops connected to each other by a gigabit cable - both with fully occupied RAM slots. One can be an nfs server serving up a large tmpfs ramdisk as a fast drive to the client laptop.

Old 09-25-2016, 10:43 PM   #2
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Unfortunately, a power outage or simple powering off the computer incurs data loss in such a setup. If you're more concerned with speed and less with data integrity then I recommend buying four of the cheapest SSDs money can buy and software RAID0 them using mdadm. I did that on my Linux desktop and couldn't be happier with the performance at a fraction of the cost of other high performing single SSDs. I documented my experience for myself but feel free to check it out.

KUbuntu with the system partition on RAID0 using mdadm. Also, I noted the EPS partition required 200MB but after install it only takes up ~1.2MB. Next time I'll probably only allocate 10MB.

Last edited by sag47; 09-25-2016 at 10:47 PM.
Old 09-26-2016, 12:21 AM   #3
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It's typical for a spare laptop to already have a battery backup built in that can last hours with the display off, and you can always set up a regular job to rsync /home to the hard drive every ten minutes if you're so paranoid. There's actually even less of a risk of data loss or file system corruption with this battery backup than with an internal SSD.

Besides, there's no way for even one cheap SSD to compete with a spare laptop on price--not that four SSDs could even fit inside the client laptop. This is all about making spare stuff useful without really spending money on it. If you have money to throw at a problem, then an off-the-shelf SSD is practically always the way to go. A cheap SSD may cost slightly more than a $30 used laptop, but it'll be maybe 60GB, not maybe 4GB.

I actually have one computer on a four drive mdadm RAID0, but that was just for kicks because I recently got my hands on a ton of spare hard drives. They were unremarkable 80GB spinning drives, but I decided to put four of them into a box just because combined (320GB), they were big enough to be a vaguely useful backup file server. But it did kind of cause a crisis for me as I used up all of my SATA cables. I only power on the thing every once in a while to rsync up a backup. Otherwise, it would cost more than it's worth in electrical power and besides, it's noisy.

For raw speed, there's nothing that'll beat RAMboot, though. I have another How-To on customizing the boot scripts to load the OS into RAM, uncompressed, at the beginning of the boot process. It is FAST, albeit real world performance isn't as much of a boost as you might hope for. And unless you have a heck of a lot of RAM, we're talking tiny capacities compared to even a cheap SSD.

Still, my experiences with the perhaps disappointingly modest speed boost of RAMboot has told me not to bother with spending money on a RAID0 SSD setup for a future workstation. For my usage case, the performance boost compared to just one SSD would not be worth it.


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