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initrd and kernel 2.4.17

hi all

i'm in the process of upgrading my woody box to kernel
2.4.17.  does 2.4.17 require initrd to boot-up?  if so
aside from adding kernel support for ramdisk and
initrd what else should be done to create a new kernel
and how memory should i allocate, by default it is

is it really beneficial to boot through ramdisk and
could someone explain why?  i've read initrd.txt in
the kernel-source directory and to me the benefit does
not seem that great.

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