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): http://www.icmreza.co.yu/blogs/vladecks/en/?page_id=4.
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.
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.
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:
To start configuring KPPP, take the following steps:
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 http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=32335). 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 http://www.linspire.com/. Alternatively, Linspire comes preinstalled on several desktop PCsand even on a $500 laptop PC from Wal-Mart.