Memory’s in the corners of my mind

Memory seems to be on my mind more than usual these days. That probably started with the myth about more memory arbitrarily improving system speed, and continued with the purchase of a gargantuan chunk of memory around the same time. And then the issue resurfaced yesterday, with an entire Openbox desktop riding on a speck no bigger than 12Mb.

I know the whole “free memory is wasted memory” argument, and in principle I agree.

But there’s a side of me that says large chunks of available memory are not an excuse for overweight software. I’m not a coder so I probably shouldn’t complain, but just because your pants are a little loose doesn’t mean you can overeat.

And really, the logic of that statement doesn’t suggest you should make an effort to use that space. It suggests you should take the extra memory out of your computer and give it to a friend. If you bought it and don’t use it, then your money went to nothing.

So … “free memory is wasted money?” :shock: You heard it here first. :roll:

I mean no offense. If you’re not using that memory, take heart: I’m not using mine either. Even this, an Arch system chrooted into a Crux system on USB and compiling mesa3d, is only using about 7-8 percent of the total memory available to the system.

And unless I’m mistaken, most of the results written in the build process will probably held in memory before they’re dumped to the USB disk en masse. So it might be safe to say usage is a wee bit higher there because of cached changes that will need flushed. I might be wrong though; htop might not make that distinction.

But it’s all hairsplitting really. Either you have enough memory or you don’t, or you have too much or you don’t. You’re the one who gets to decide which is true and what’s best for you. You are free to stack memory chips in your machine like so many slices of bread, and complain that it’s just not enough.

On the other hand, if anyone feels crazy and wants to yank a stick of PC66 from a laptop, I’d be happy to put it to work. … :D

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6 Responses to “Memory’s in the corners of my mind”


  1. 1 mulenmar 2010/08/14 at 1:09 PM

    Perhaps you should see what you can do in 4KB with an old Atari 2600, or better yet with a Fuzebox.

    http://www.ladyada.net/make/fuzebox/

    It’s designed as a completely open-source 8-bit game console. No such thing as bloated software there. ;)

  2. 3 Patrick 2010/08/14 at 10:19 PM

    Excess RAM does get used — for caching :)

  3. 4 Josh 2010/08/15 at 12:10 AM

    The actual free memory can be found using the “free” command. Run it with the “-m” switch to output values in megabytes.

    Look at the “-/+ buffers/cache” line. This row shows actual memory usage that does *not* included memory used by caching (if I understand this correctly).

    Here is s rather lengthy description of what’s going on here:

    http://www.coldink.net/forums/showthread.php?t=951

    • 5 Josh 2010/08/15 at 12:12 AM

      Never mind… I just looked and it appears htop does in fact report actual memory used (ie: does not include cached/buffered memory usage).

  4. 6 samspade 2010/08/15 at 10:14 PM

    “But there‚Äôs a side of me that says large chunks of available memory are not an excuse for overweight software. “

    In an article I did a while back I used the analogy of buying a large garden simply to fill it up with junk.
    http://computingminimalists.blogspot.com/2009/03/computing-minimalism-try-this-software.html


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May 6, 2011
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