A partition is labeled to host a certain kind of file system (not to be confused with a volume label. Such a file system could be the linux standard ext3 file system or linux swap space, or even foreign file systems like (Microsoft) NTFS or (Sun) UFS. There is a numerical code associated with each partition type. For example, the code for ext2 is 0x83and linux swap is 0x82(0x mean hexadecimal).
The partition type codes have been arbitrarily chosen (you can't figure out what they should be) and they are particular to a given operating system. Therefore, it is theoretically possible that if you use two operating systems with the same hard drive, the same code might be used to designate two different partition types. OS/2 marks its partitions with a 0x07 type and so does Windows NT's NTFS. MS-DOS allocates several type codes for its various flavors of FAT file systems: 0x01, 0x04 and 0x06 are known. DR-DOS used 0x81 to indicate protected FAT partitions, creating a type clash with Linux/Minix at that time, but neither Linux/Minix nor DR-DOS are widely used any more.
Every process running on your computer is allocated a number of blocks of RAM. These blocks are called pages. The set of in-memory pages which will be referenced by the processor in the very near future is called a "working set." Linux tries to predict these memory accesses (assuming that recently used pages will be used again in the near future) and keeps these pages in RAM if possible.
If you have too many processes running on a machine, the kernel will try to free up RAM by writing pages to disk. This is what swap space is for. It effectively increases the amount of memory you have available. However, disk I/O is about a hundred times slower than reading from and writing to RAM. Consider this emergency memory and not extra memory.
If memory becomes so scarce that the kernel pages out from the working set of one process in order to page in for another, the machine is said to be thrashing. Some readers might have inadvertenly experienced this: the hard drive is grinding away like crazy, but the computer is slow to the point of being unusable. Swap space is something you need to have, but it is no substitute for sufficient RAM.
From the fdisk help:
0 Vide 1e Hidden W95 FAT1 80 Old Minix bf Solaris 1 FAT12 24 NEC DOS 81 Minix / old Lin c1 DRDOS/sec (FAT- 2 XENIX root 39 Plan 9 82 Linux swap / So c4 DRDOS/sec (FAT- 3 XENIX usr 3c PartitionMagic 83 Linux c6 DRDOS/sec (FAT- 4 FAT16 <32M 40 Venix 80286 84 OS/2 hidden C: c7 Syrinx 5 Extended 41 PPC PReP Boot 85 Linux extended da Non-FS data 6 FAT16 42 SFS 86 NTFS volume set db CP/M / CTOS / . 7 HPFS/NTFS 4d QNX4.x 87 NTFS volume set de Dell Utility 8 AIX 4e QNX4.x 2nd part 88 Linux plein tex df BootIt 9 AIX bootable 4f QNX4.x 3rd part 8e Linux LVM e1 DOS access a OS/2 Boot Manag 50 OnTrack DM 93 Amoeba e3 DOS R/O b W95 FAT32 51 OnTrack DM6 Aux 94 Amoeba BBT e4 SpeedStor c W95 FAT32 (LBA) 52 CP/M 9f BSD/OS eb BeOS fs e W95 FAT16 (LBA) 53 OnTrack DM6 Aux a0 IBM Thinkpad hi ee GPT f W95 Etendu (LBA 54 OnTrackDM6 a5 FreeBSD ef EFI (FAT-12/16/ 10 OPUS 55 EZ-Drive a6 OpenBSD f0 Linux/PA-RISC b 11 Hidden FAT12 56 Golden Bow a7 NeXTSTEP f1 SpeedStor 12 Compaq diagnost 5c Priam Edisk a8 UFS Darwin f4 SpeedStor 14 Hidden FAT16 <3 61 SpeedStor a9 NetBSD f2 DOS secondary 16 Hidden FAT16 63 GNU HURD or Sys ab Amorce Darwin fb VMware VMFS 17 Hidden HPFS/NTF 64 Novell Netware b7 BSDI fs fc VMware VMKCORE 18 AST SmartSleep 65 Novell Netware b8 BSDI swap fd Linux raid auto 1b Hidden W95 FAT3 70 DiskSecure Mult bb Boot Wizard hid fe LANstep 1c Hidden W95 FAT3 75 PC/IX be Amorce Solaris ff BBT