Section 3.7. I Need to Connect via Modem (GUI Tools)

3.7. I Need to Connect via Modem (GUI Tools)

As of this writing, still over half of those in the U.S. who connect to the Internet use telephone modems. While the availability of broadband service is increasing, it is not always affordable or available in the user's geographic area. With the problems associated with the digital divide, those with less money are more likely to connect via telephone modem. And with the lower costs associated with Linux, you as a Linux geek are more likely to have to support home users on single computers with telephone modems.

As a Linux geek, you've probably raved about the advantages of Linux to your friends and relatives. But as a Linux geek, you may be annoyed when they ask, "How do I get on the Internet?"

You'll have to remember that in many cases, these users may not even know that they're using a telephone modem, except for noticing that they can't use the phone.

As of this writing, there is no universal GNOME-based GUI tool to connect to the Internet via telephone modem on our selected distributions. If you need a GNOME-based tool, I personally recommend GNOME PPP. It's available on Debian-based repositories and can also be download and compiled from its current developer home page (in Serbia):

The best available tool for regular users who connect via telephone modems, in my opinion, is KPPP. It works equally well on the GNOME and KDE desktop environments. Unfortunately, KPPP does not work for all ISPs; I describe some workarounds available in "The AOL Problem" section later in this annoyance.

3.7.1. Key Tools

Linux GUI tools are frontends to command-line tools. KPPP is no exception. Before you can connect via a telephone modem, you first need to make sure it's accessible via Linux. One handy tool for this purpose is wvdialconf update , which detects installed modems and documents associated settings in /etc/wvdial.conf. If KPPP has problems, you can cross-check its settings against the updated version of this configuration file.

If wvdialconf can't detect a modem on your system, you may have a dreaded "winmodem." For more information, see "I'm Having Trouble with Microsoft-Dependent Hardware" in Chapter 5.

However, you don't have to install the wvdial package before installing KPPP. The only packages you need are the ones containing KPPP, its dependencies (which sometimes include some basic KDE packages), and ppp. It's best to use your favorite update tool (apt-get, YaST, up2date, yum) to install the right package, as it detects and installs any needed dependencies. For example, the following command installs KPPP and dependencies on Red Hat/Fedora distributions, respectively (KPPP is part of the Red Hat/Fedora kdenetwork RPM):

 up2date -u kdenetwork yum install kdenetwork 

On Debian Linux (Sarge), KPPP is part of its own package, so you can install it with a command such as:

 apt-get install kppp 

Like Red Hat/Fedora, later versions of Debian Linux (Etch) include KPPP in the kdenetwork package. (Naturally, I use similar commands to install the wvdial package on each distribution.) Unfortunately, in SUSE Linux, unless you've configured a connection to an up-to-date apt repository, you can't run package updates from the console. To install the noted packages, you'll have to access YaST to install SUSE's wvdial and kdenetwork3-dialup packages.

3.7.2. Scanning for Modems

In many cases, modems are automatically detected during the installation and boot process. Generally, the device file associated with detected modems is linked to /dev/modem. In other words, when you run the following command:

 ls -l /dev/modem 

you'll see a link to the actual port associated with the modem, such as If there is no link, it's appropriate to run the wvdialconf update command. It's available with the wvdial package. Run it on your system. It scans available ports for a modem. For example, when I run the command on my Debian laptop, I see the following output:

 Found a modem on /dev/ttySHSF0. Modem configuration   written to update. ttySHSF0<Info>: Speed 460800; init "ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0" 

While you can specifically point KPPP to this /dev/ttySHSF0 device file, many modem configuration tools assume there's a link to /dev/modem. If there is no link, you can create onein this case with the following command:

 ln -s /dev/ttySHSF0 /dev/modem 

If you need to recheck settings detected by the wvdialconf command, you'll find them in your /etc/wvdial.conf configuration file.

If wvdialconf does not work, try the scanModem utility. Instructions and download links are available from Once scanModem is unpacked, with executable permissions, run the script. It detects most telephone modems (including Winmodems), with directions on downloading and installing drivers. As the directions vary widely by modem, it's beyond what I can cover in this book.

3.7.3. Configuring KPPP

Now, with your modem detected, the next step is to configure KPPP for your user's Internet Service Provider (ISP). But before you begin, you'll need to configure KPPP permissions to support access by all regular users, just in case they start KPPP from the command line. The steps vary by distribution:

Configuring KPPP on Debian

When you install the kppp package on Debian Linux, the key script isn't even executable by regular users. You can make it so with the following commands:

 chmod 755 /usr/bin/kppp chmod u+s /usr/bin/kppp 

Alternatively, you could combine these commands:

 chmod 4755 /usr/bin/kppp 

You may also need to add KPPP to the appropriate GUI desktop menu. While it's automatically included in the KDE menu, it's not included in the Debian GNOME Applications menu. For more information on how to add it, see "I Want the Advantages of Both KDE and GNOME" in Chapter 1.

Configuring KPPP permissions on SUSE

When you install the kdenetwork3-dialup package on SUSE Linux, it automatically adds KPPP to appropriate GNOME and KDE menus. To make sure all users can start KPPP from the command line, run the following command:

 chmod u+s /opt/kde3/bin/kppp 

Configuring KPPP permissions on Red Hat/Fedora

Red Hat and Fedora regulate access to KPPP using pluggable authentication modules. The KPPP utility is regulated in the /etc/pam.d/kppp configuration file. That means you'll need to replace the auth sufficient pam_rootok.sodirective in that file with:

 auth sufficient 

To start configuring KPPP, take the following steps:

  1. Verify the availability of a telephone modem, as described earlier in this annoyance.

  2. Make sure you have the needed information from the user's ISP, at least the connection telephone number. To make sure the connection works, you'll need an account and password on that ISP.

  3. Click the K menu (or Applications) Internet KPPP.

    Dial-Up submenu. In some cases, KPPP may also be known as the Internet Dial-Up Tool.

  4. Under the Accounts tab, click New. This opens the Create New Account window.

    If you're editing an existing account, select it and click Edit; then skip to step 7.

  5. While KPPP offers a wizard, it's not helpful unless you're configuring an ISP in one of several countries in Europe, or in New Zealand or Taiwan. If you're elsewhere, click Manual Setup to open the New Account window.

  6. In the New Account window, on the Dial tab, enter a name for the connection, such as "Local ISP."

  7. Click Add. Enter the full phone number required to dial via the telephone to the ISP. If you have to enter a prefix such as 9 for an outside line, add a comma. That tells KPPP to wait a couple of seconds, normally sufficient to get a dial tone.

    In most cases, no other changes are required. If there is a problem, you may need to check with the ISP to ask what authentication protocol it uses. Some ISPs, especially those connected with some secure organizations, call your computer back after verifying a connection.

    Generally, you won't have to change settings in any of the other tabs, as they are configured for a dynamic IP address, a default gateway, and DNS servers as assigned by the ISP. If you require a specialized login script, commands to be executed during the connection and disconnection process, or accounting based on the amount of time online, you may be interested in some of these tabs.

    Click OK when you're finished configuring the account for this ISP. Return to step 5 if you want to configure another connection.

  8. Navigate to the Modems tab. If a modem isn't already configured, select New; alternatively, highlight the modem and select Edit. Under the Device tab, make sure the settings correspond to what was detected and recorded, as described earlier in this annoyance, by the wvdialconf update command to the /etc/wvdial.conf file.

  9. Navigate to the Modem tab. Click Query Modem. KPPP sends a series of commands to your modem; if they're successful, you'll see a series of messages in a Modem Query Results window. (For some modems, you may need to have a physical connection to a telephone line.) Click Close.

    If your modem isn't properly configured, you'll get a message like Modem Query Timed Out or Unable To Open Modem.

  10. Click OK to exit from the KPPP Configuration window. You should be back in the main KPPP window.

  11. Now you can test your connection. Make sure your configured ISP (and, in some cases, Modems) is shown in the Connect To drop-down menu. Enter your login ID and password for the ISP, and click Connect. If your modem is configured for sound, you should hear the modem in action.

  12. If your connection is successful, you should see a message to that effect in a Connecting To window.

If successful, you can now pass on this configuration to your users. You can copy the configuration file, ~/.kde/share/config/kppprc, directly to your users' workstations.

3.7.4. The AOL Problem

If you're working with users who insist on connecting to the Internet via telephone modem to America Online (AOL), standard Linux PPP connections don't work and the solutions aren't easy. If the users are geeks, they may be able to download and install solutions such as those associated with the PengAOL project (available for download from However, as the associated home page is not active as of this writing, I cannot recommend it as a solution for you or your users. If you have problems, and developers are not available to help, you could be out of luck.

One other solution is the AOL Dialer, available as part of the Linspire Linux distribution. While officially it's still "beta" software, it is a GUI solution available for a Linux-based desktop distribution. Unfortunately, there are costs associated with Linspire, available from Alternatively, Linspire comes preinstalled on several desktop PCsand even on a $500 laptop PC from Wal-Mart.

Linux Annoyances for Geeks
Linux Annoyances for Geeks: Getting the Most Flexible System in the World Just the Way You Want It
ISBN: 0596008015
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 144
Authors: Michael Jang © 2008-2017.
If you may any questions please contact us: