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Hard disk slows linux system

Hi, is it normal that hard disk activities such as cd-ripping, big file 
conversions and just plain copying take an enormous amount of my system 
resources? All these things slows the system so much that even the mouse 
isn't moving smoothly. This doesn't happen in WinXP where i can do all these 
things without slowing the system at all.

I'd really like to know if i'm missing something.

I'm using a 2.4.18 kernel patched with the low latency patch (for audio work) 
on debian woody. The computer is an Athlon XP1600+ with 512MB and 120GB+10GB 

TIA, Tal.

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