Advice needed concerning SSD and Linux

I’ve recently decided to treat myself to a major hardware update. My old and reliable Dell Optiplex 960(small form factor) desktop running an Intel Q9650(4 cores, 4 threads @ 3.00GHz with 8GB of ram) with a GeForce GT 730(64-Bit 1GB GDDR5 & 384 cuda cores), is making room for a bigger bother. I found a good deal on a Dell XPS 8930 running an Intel Core i7- 8700(6 cores, 12 threads @ 3.20GHz and fully filled with 64GB of ram) with a GeForce GTX 1050Ti(128-bit 4GB GDDR5 & 768 cuda cores).

The mother board has an M.2 slot that came with 16GB of Intel Optane memory which accelerated the 1TB HDD. It actually booted up the Windows 10 Pro in less than 30 seconds. However, one of the reasons I bought this machine was to follow the example that a Youtuber did with this exact same machine.

This is the link to his channel if anyone is interested.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmJmmaSePtniRpFRYbuM-eA

I replaced the Optane stick with a Samsung SSD 970 EVO Plus 1TB NVMe and added a Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB sata. Everything went well with no surprises. I also added another 1TB HDD to fill things up.

Now I’m at the crossroads on several decisions.

  1. Which Linux distro do I want to install?
  2. Which SSD I should use for the Linux half of the dual boot?
  3. Which file system to use with the SSD drive I decide to install it on?
  4. With 64GB of ram, should I use any swap space?
    4.1 If so, swap partition vs swap file?
    4.2 Where to put the swap partition or file.

1- I’ve been using Ubuntu Studio for quite a few years now. I read that the next LTS may offer a KDE desktop. I’m used to the lighter weight XFCE desktop that’s been there since I started using it, but KDE has some nicer & resource hungrier bells and whistles which should no longer be a problem for the new hardware. Until I see what happens I may try Kubuntu and use the Ubuntu Studio packages, or just stick with the 18.04 LTS I’m using.

2- I’ve always partitioned one single HDD and for a dual boot, but now it seems to make sense to have Windows and Linux on their own SSD. Since I’ll primarily be using Linux, it seems to me that installing it on the M.2 SSD would be the way to go with Windows being cloned to the sata SSD.

3- There are many file system options I never even knew existed until SSDs became part of my hardware. I think I’m going to stick with ext4 and keep the journaling active unless I find out that something else is definitely a better option.

4- I’ve read that with 64GB of ram that I may never need any swap space. I never plan on using hibernation since there’s not a power issue on a desktop computer. I’ve also read that having swap space is a good idea to have as a “safety cushion” so to say. If I add swap, I’m inclined to go with 8GB.

4.1 Swap partition vs swap file? My research says it really doesn’t matter. Either/or as long as it’s there.

4.2 I’ve read that the swap file or partition should not go on a SSD unless it’s necessary. I’m inclined to add it to one of the HDDs.

So, even though this really has turned out to be a software question, the new hardware is where all of my confusion stems from. Also, my main focus on computing is photo/video/audio editing. No gaming whatsoever. Any suggestions/recommendations are eagerly welcome.

Disclaimer: I barely have any experience in hardware. I would place swap, system files and data on separate drives so that each would not throttle the other.

I wouldn’t put any swap on that machine. With your intended usage and coming from an 8 GB computer, the only way to fill up 64 GB is if you have some runaway process eating memory, and that will consume 64+8 just as easily as it consumes 64.

As for distro choice, I’ve been using Arch+OpenBox (no DE) for years. I heard the new version of xubuntu uses the recently released XFCE desktop, which may be worth a try.

I always use ext4 on Linux – it’s tried and true, which is what I want in a FS.

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Not so much hardware advice from me, @sls141 - merely gear (computational in this case) envy! :slight_smile:

  • I would boot both OSes from the NVme SSD (this should normally be the fastest). Apps would also be installed there.
  • (K)Ubuntu is about the most universal distro there is, in terms of hardware compatibility. You can check on the Canonical site if your hardware is certified with Ubuntu (warm fuzzies if it is, but don’t panic if it’s not) . Otherwise, check what distros the authors of your fave apps are using, you are more likely to get usable installation packages for the same. I have been a KDE user for years (Mandrake/Mandriva, then Kubuntu).
  • Ext4 is fine, there are options to optimize it for SSDs (like not rewrite the access time to disk each tile the file is accessed). The system is also set up to send regular “trim” commands. In my case, the Kubuntu 16.04 installer did use the adequate options.
  • The reason they recommend to avoid putting the swap file on a SSD is because SSDs wear out and a very active swap would wear them out fast. But recent SSDs are much more resilient, and you may hardly swap, especially if you tweak the system “swappiness”.
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First of all, nice machine :blush:

1- you may want to try Linux Mint (Cinnamon for a heavy environment, but not so much as KDE; or Mate for a nice, lighter environment)

2- I would definitely go for separate disks, but without dual boot: you will most likely alteady have a boot manager in your BIOS through F12 at machine bootup. M2 for linux and as default boot disk

3- ext4 is the safer choice, and quite good yet

4- as it has been said you can go swapless, or maybe get an appropriate pci-e adapter and use that killer Optane as swap

4.1- I would definitely go for swap partition, mostly for peace of mind if something gets ever screwed with the swap file that has some effect to other files in the same partition

4.2- to me the proper choice would be the Optane, as it has an unbelievable resistance to wear

But if I compare that system with mine (i7 4790, 32GB RAM, Corsair XT SSD as boot disk), either way should give you an amazing experience.

The only thing I would try to avoid at all cost is mixing linux and all Windows crappiness in the same disk.

Thanks to all responses so far!
@afre I’ve read that swap will work on almost any storage medium. Even a usb stick. The beauty is I can always change it later if needed.
@mbs I may just try it without swap. I could add it later if needed.
@martin.scharnke I’ve been wanting to do this for some time now. SSD prices are getting to be reasonable now.
@Ofnuts I’m not sure if I’ want to add more partitions to the Windows SSD. It already has 4 or 5 if my memory is right. Windows performance is not important to me. I’m looking for the Linux SSD to really carry the demanding things like photo/video editing.
@XavAL You hit on two things I didn’t think of. Instead of a grub screen , using the boot manager certainly wouldn’t be all that much more of a bother. I never even thought of what I was going to do with the Optane memory. I just wanted the M.2 slot for the Samsung 970 to blaze the trail. I had’t thought of using the Optane for swap. I guess I’d need a pcie to M.2 adapter of some sort, right?

Hi there, very nice hardware!
Just a thought: Why not using virtual box for windows? I use it myself for many years, performance is more than sufficient (Intel Xeon E3-1230). But I use it only for saal digital software to create photo albums.
I have experience with it on Ubuntu and Linux Mint and since several month I swapped to manjaro where it also works perfectly for me…

ALready your old pc was very good :smile:

The one is seems outstanding!

I agree with m2 slot.

  1. I really like Ubuntu Mate (LTS) and Q4os. The first one is fast, the second one is incredibly fast. See for example distrowatch for reviews of both. The second one makes a pentium 4 32 bit with a cheap Kingdian (cheap chinese but so far so good) ssd really usable, booting in something like 28-30 seconds on my 3.0 GHz. Your pc… is a bit faster.

  2. I would install it to nvme

  3. on ext 4 with fstab with noatime,nodiratime options

  4. swap: leave maybe some spare gb on a disk whilst partitioning, if you need it you can add it later.

Yes. One compatible with at least pci-e x4

And to take full advantage of the Optane speed, you will have to make sure that there aren’t any other cards or devices using the same pci lane as the slot you plug it in. You may need to read the motherboard manual

  1. Fedora or openSUSE
  2. Put it on the fastest
  3. This depends on which distro and features you want. With OpenSUSE, zypper and snapshots to roll back it is btrfs on / (root filesystem) and ext4 for /home. If you use Fedora use ext4.
  4. Depends on if you want do do hibernation.

I hope it was very cheap. See

grep bugs /proc/cpuinfo

@asn I plugged in a usb stick with Ubuntu Studio and ran your terminal command.Screenshot_2019-11-04_11-35-24
This is what resulted. I have no clue what this actually means. I remember reading a review on the i7-8700 that said the cpu cooler was inadequate for overclocking. That’s something I have no plans to do.

You haven’t heard of the CPU hardware bugs in Intel CPUs?

https://meltdownattack.com/

Here are benchmarks:

https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=linux50-spectre-meltdown&num=1

TL;DR: Intel CPUs are 13-17% slower because of those hardware bugs, AMD CPUs are 3% slower.

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@asn Very informative and as well as disturbing. I also ran the command on my present Linux system with similar results. I’ll definitely look into these things more.

Although those bugs are certainly to be taken into account, there are people that say there’s not much to worry about in a linux box, if you are a bit cautious about what and from where you install in the linux system: a malicious program is needed to exploit those bugs, so most FOSS programs should be safe to use.

Windows is a totally different matter…

Anyway, a 15-20% loss of performance in your machine shouldn’t be something to worry about: you will still have a fabulous machine to work with (for your intended use)

Thanks for the reminder that I need to take a look at my kernel commandline.

The primary issue with meltdown/spectre is that a hostile process in one user’s memory space can potentially read memory it doesn’t have access to (or at least get a hint as to the contents of memory it doesn’t have access to) by abusing branch prediction/speculative execution peculiarities.

If you’re running on a single-user system, there are very few (if any) situations where meltdown/specture will be problematic for you. Which is why, I believe, there’s documentation on how to turn off the Meltdown/Spectre mitigations and which scenarios it’s “mostly” safe to do so. It’s a MUCH bigger issue for virtual machine hosts - one VM could potentially “snoop” another VM.

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W-e-l-l… there are no universal truths to your questions,
so please permit me to add my very personal thoughts:

  1. Distro? Ask x people and you will get x + y replies (some simply cannot make up their minds).
    I presently favour Manjaro/KDE. Very easy to keep up-to-date.
    The best one for you would probably be the one that you are accustomed to!

  2. Which SSD should I use for the Linux half of the dual boot?
    I favour the idea of having one OS per SSD/HD. Makes it a lot easier for future maintenance, experiments, and updates.

  3. Which file system to use?
    I use Ext4. And no swap or hibernation.

I presently have

  • an M.2 Nvme (fast! 3500/2300 read/write speeds) for my main OS, i.e. Manjaro/KDE.
  • an M.2 Sata (540/500 read/write speeds) for Win X.
  • an SSD (550/520 read/write speeds) for experimental purposes.

I have set my Bios to automatically boot to Manjaro.
If I have to go into any other OS, I simply hit F12 at boot, and pick the destination I want.

Have fun!
Claes in Lund, Sweden

I have a laptop with an SSD. I use KDE Neon on it because 1. I like Plasma desktop and KDE apps; 2. It is modern and stable. I formatted the SSD ext4 file system, I have no swap partition just a swap file.

That’s cute, on mine (Intel Core i7-6820HQ):

bugs: cpu_meltdown spectre_v1 spectre_v2 spec_store_bypass l1tf mds swapgs

:sunglasses: