Has anyone been using a CF card for a main drive for more than a few months?
I'm really tempted to try this out but am worried about the write cycle limitations and don't fully understand the worst case scenarios.
Honestly, even anecdotal evidence wouldn't help much since everyone uses their drives differently. With built in wear-leveling and the swap file turned off, the drives should last for a while, but no idea how effective the built in wear-leveling is.
On top of that, many accounts online recommend against using NTFS or any other journaled file system and just to use FAT32 since it has less writes (at the expense of reliability and performance), but I have no idea how much less.
If you're willing to Linux, it's possible to use a file system built for flash with built in wear leveling (you could also download an add on for windows to use other file systems and just boot off fat32/ntfs and have another partition for everything else). What's strange is that these all use journaling, which would make it seem that journaling isn't that bad for flash drives after all.
If you want to be safe, look up the write cycle limitations of the drive (or make them readonly, which is possible to do in both linux and windows) and see which ones are over a million. Many 8GB cards are, as the SSD drives probably are in the several millions.
A 16GB drive with 100,000 write cycle endurance theoretically would last about a year if you completely rewrote every bit on the drive 3 times a day. Everything else is just linear scaling, so 10x the survival time for 1,000,000 write cycles, but only 5x if it's an 8GB drive.
Of course, depending on the wear leveling built into the drive, so sectors will get rewritten much more than others. I'd imagine the drive will be capable of marking those sectors as bad though and using others instead, in which case you'd want a journaling file system such as NTFS, ext3, or Reiser since they can recover from the errors and restore the data. (of these, I believe ext3 is the best at this, NTFS the worst, and Reiser the most efficient with small files and space usage, not sure if NTFS offers any advantages, other than being the best file system natively supported by windows)