Updated: November 4, 2009
Most people tend to forget that there are still hundreds of millions of computer users worldwide still connected to the Web using 56K modems, having to dial up every time they want to enjoy the Internet experience.
In this regard, Linux distributions are no saints by all means, most having forwent the inclusion of drivers for most common modems from their editions, making the life all the more difficult for the dialup users.
In this article, I will try - emphasis on try - to help the dialup users running Linux overcome their basic problems. I must admit I have not used a modem in the last eight years or so, which makes it a bit difficult to relate to the problem and write about it with any great experience and accuracy. Still, I would like to give it a shot, even if the results may not be perfect, or even guaranteed.
If you are on Linux and have issues with your modem, maybe this compilation will help you. I can't promise any miracles, but at least I hope to point you in the right direction.
Please note that this article is going to be a sort of a rolling tutorial. If and when you provide feedback on your experiences with dial-up connectivity, I will add them here, making this compilation an even worthier source for dial-up users worldwide.
Friendly Linux distributions
By friendly, I mean those that clearly state in their agenda the need for dial-up support. Even though the Linux world is oriented toward low-end markets much more than the competition, dial-up seems to have been forgotten somehow. Anyhow ...
One name stands in the crowd - Puppy Linux. This mighty little distribution is one of my long-time favorites. I've reviewed it - and some of its variants, called puplets - no less than four times, with more to come.
The latest edition, 4.3, specifically states the importance of and need for dial-up support in the distribution release notes. Highly commendable!
Internet by dialup: Unlike many other distros, Puppy has not forgotten those who access the Internet by analog modem dialup. The kernel has drivers for many modems, including Agere, ESS, Lucent, Conexant, Smartlink, Pctel and Intel chipsets. Rerwin has done an incredible job here, and in most cases we have automatic detection and configuration. Rerwin has also done a lot of work on dialup via 3G devices.
You should definitely give Puppy a try. It's a worthy distro!
I am not familiar of any other distribution with a similar level of support. This does not mean it's not there or it does not exist, merely that I have little or no knowledge about it. So please, feel free to email me with your suggestions.
I've had a very enthusiastic user write to me, reporting his success with dial-up on several distributions. While the report reflects the personal experience of one man, you may still use it as a basic reference to what you should expect from this or that Linux distribution.
Here's what Richard had to say:
Hardware used: USRobotics V.92 external serial modem
SimplyMepis 8.0 - Success. At first, the dial-up connection to the ISP would not work. After uncommenting the #noauth line in the Kppp options file, the user managed to connect. He also believes that this kind of detail would not be appreciated by Windows converters.
However, the distro comes with the right documentation, which helped the user handle the problem, including troubleshooting issues with Kmail and Icedove mail clients.
Linux Mint 6.0 Felicia - Success. The required software is included, but there is nothing in the distro help file. This leaves the users on pretty much their own.
PCLinuxOS 2009 - Success. However, the user did not elaborate much on the endeavor.
Many thanks to Richard! If you have similar experience, feel free to share, including your own hardware, your own tips and the results achieved.
Update, Nov 28, here's what Ocky had to say:
Hardware used: Model Blaster, Trendnet, USRobotics external serial modems.
He managed to get the dialup working with Linux Mint 6; It is also the same
method to use for Ubuntu 8.10. He does not know if a USB modem will work or not.
- Go to terminal, type sudo pppconfig (provide password, Enter).
- Fill out all the information in pppconfig and save. Then type: sudo wvdialconf. This should detect and set-up your modem.
- Add your user to the dial-up group and make sure the right files exist:
sudo adduser <yourusername> dip
sudo touch /etc/resolv.conf
sudo touch /etc/ppp/options
- Reboot the machine.
- Go to terminal, type pon <yourispname>. This should start the modem dialing.
- Go to terminal, type poff to end the Internet session.
- While connected to the net, open Synaptic package manager and hit Reload.
- After reloading Synaptic, download Gnome-PPP.
You need to know your ISP's DNS for pppconfig. If you don't know it, you may try using the free OpenDNS. The relevant IP numbers are: 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206.
Many thanks to Ocky!
Update, Nov 28, here's what Trespasser had to say:
Hardware used: hsf modems.
First, you need to find out if your Conexant PCI modem is supported. The best way is to use terminal to check your Vendor device PCI ID id with lspci (needs root or sudo):
0000:01:0b.0 Communication controller: Conexant HSF 56k Data/Fax Modem (rev 01)
Then, type lspci -n and look at the same identifying numbers to get the vendor:device id:
0000:01:0b.0 0780: 14f1:2f00 (rev 01)
In this example, it's 14f1:2f00. Vendor ID is the first part (14f1) before the colon separator, the second part is the Device ID (2f00).Now see if your VendorID and DeviceID match those listed below.
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2F00
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2F01
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2013
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2014
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2015
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2016
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2F10
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2F11
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2F12
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2F13
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2F14
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2F20
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=4311
VendorID=127A : DeviceID=1025
VendorID=127A : DeviceID=2004
VendorID=127A : DeviceID=2005
VendorID=127A : DeviceID=2013
VendorID=127A : DeviceID=2014
VendorID=127A : DeviceID=2015
VendorID=127A : DeviceID=2016
VendorID=127A : DeviceID=4311
VendorID=127A : DeviceID=2114
VendorID=8086 : DeviceID=2416
VendorID=8086 : DeviceID=2446
VendorID=8086 : DeviceID=2486
VendorID=1106 : DeviceID=3068
VendorID=10B9 : DeviceID=5453
VendorID=10B9 : DeviceID=5457
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2043
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2044
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2045
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2046
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=2443
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=1631
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=1636
VendorID=14F1 : DeviceID=1637
If it does then you're probably in luck.
Next, make sure you have build-essential package installed, as it is required for the compilation of a dialup package (see below).
Now, download this package (direct link):
Unzip it to /home/user-name.
Then, change into the unzipped directory:
Issue these commands:
sudo make install
After the process has finished making and installing, then:
The last command builds the hsfmodem module.
If successful, your modem should now be ready at /dev/ttySHSF0.
Note: Ubuntu Karmic (9.10), Jaunty (9.04), Hardy (8.04) and SUSE (11.0, 11.1) users with HDA modems: installing the latest alsa-driver-linuxant package may be necessary before installing the hsfmodem driver.
Trespasser did not install the alsa-driver. The only thing he found was when the modem was dialing out you couldn't hear it. He did not find this a big deal, because he does not have an HDA modem.
Once the driver is installed and configured, install either gnome-ppp or kppp to control your dialup connection.
One problem that Trespasser did encounter after this installation was that he could not connect to his ISP, because of the permission problems. He solved it by executing the following commands:
sudo gedit /etc/rc.local
And changing the permissions for the wvdial utility:
chmod u+s /usr/bin/wvdial
This allowed him to connect without problems. This process worked for Ubuntu Karmic kernel 2.6.31-14.
Generic link to Ubuntu dialup help:
Many thanks to Trespasser!
I must admit this tutorial is rather slim, but it's getting fatter and better! Keep up with your great ideas and suggestions. With your help, then we can make this an excellent guide for all dial-up users worldwide.
Meanwhile, you're encouraged to read my Broadband article, which has many suggestions how to help dial-up users obtain up-to-date Linux distributions with lots of programs.
Stay tuned for updates.