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file-max is only 4096 with 1 GB mem

I have a small problem under Debian etch with a (vanilla) kernel on a AMD 64 (32-bit) system with 1GB memory:
often I see error messages about running out of file handles.
'cat /proc/sys/fs/file-max' shows: 4096
This seems very sparse for 1GB memory.

Looking at Documentation/proc.txt I found this.

The value  in  file-max  denotes  the  maximum number of file handles
that the Linux kernel will allocate. When you get a lot of error
messages about running out of file handles, you might want to raise
this limit. The default value is 10% of  RAM in kilobytes.  To  change
it, just  write the new number into the file:
# echo 8192 > /proc/sys/fs/file-max

Okay this works, but I don't understand why this value is so small.
Is anyone else here with such a problem and can explain why this
value is so small?
On another computer with etch (but an Intel Pentium 4 CPU) I get 89808,
which is what I expect from the docu.

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