Choosing a serial modem for Linux

Q I've been having a look at Linux as a replacement for Windows XP and have been very impressed with the availability of the range of software, however I can't get access to the internet. I have an external 56k modem and the few Linux distros I've tried won't recognise the modem. As a newbie to Linux I'm really in the dark on this issue and find the available support info confusing or lacking. Can you help point me the right direction?

A Is this a serial or USB modem? If it's a plain, old-fashioned serial modem, then things couldn't be simpler. The first serial port is /dev/ttyS0 (the equivalent of COM0 with Windows), and you just need to set up your dialler program to use this. Which dialler program you use depends on which distro and, more importantly, which desktop you use. With KDE you should use KPPP, while in Gnome you should go to System > Administration > Network and choose the Point-to-Point or Modem option. If the modem is a USB device, you may or may not be in luck. USB modems are a little like internal modems, in that some just work and are supported by the kernel; others require specific drivers that may only be available for Windows; while many fall in between and can be made to work with a little effort. Use the lsusb -v command to find out the details of your modem, then use Google, or any other search engine, to find information on this device and Linux. This should tell you whether it should 'just work' require a driver or if it is a lost cause. A quick test is to run

tail -f var/log/messages

in a root terminal (prefix the command with sudo if using an Ubuntu variant) before you connect the modem, then watch the messages as you plug it in. If the make and model are recognised, things are looking good. If the device dev/ttyUSB0 appears, you are really in luck and can use this as the modem device in the dialler program, just as for a serial modem. Otherwise, some web searching will be required.

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