There quite an elegant set of scripts available at to tweak a standard debian installation to boot from an IDE device and run entirely from tempfs from that point on, thereby avoiding the 'worn out' compact flash problem. Targeted at router applications but certainly useful for other semi-embedded applications.

[ Debian Stable - additional packages]

[ Perfect Xen setup for Debian]

Some useful (not Debian specific) links:

[ Table of equivalent software in Linux for Windows-apps ]

[ One Day, One Linux Command]