Fixing modem and PPP problems using WVDial

Q I am new to Linux and want to move away from Windows completely.

I bought a compatible modem recently, but struggled with Ubuntu and Fedora for hours to set it up. Ubuntu did dial out, but then the KPPP daemon crashed. I restarted the computer with my USB copy of Puppy Linux 4.1, clicked three things, typed my login, password and the phone number then the new modem jumped to life. Including bootup, setup and typing, it took me less than five minutes. Why does this process have to be a nightmare on the 'sophisticated' distros? Please explain the madness!

A Until recently, PPP (point-to-point protocol) was a fading technology with most people moving from dialup connections to broadband. This is now changing with the advent of mobile broadband services that once again use PPP. The main difficulty with using PPP is interpreting the error messages, as a failed connection often fails with a terse message along the lines of:

The ppp daemon exited with an error nn

leaving you to look up the meaning of the error code in the man page. This is probably what happened when you thought the daemon had crashed in Ubuntu; it's hard to tell a cryptic, unexpected exit from a crash. We think it's more likely that the connection failed for some reason. Either the default init string put the modem in the wrong state for connecting to your ISP, or the connect script (if there was one) was wrong, or one of a number of other config errors that can cause such a failure occurred in this case.

Ubuntu and Fedora both use the Gnome desktop's Gnome-ppp, while Puppy Linux uses its own PupDial. It could be Gnome-ppp at the heart of your problems, as sometimes systems can try to be too clever. Most distros use Wvdial to handle the actual dialling, whatever front-end they use, and this includes Puppy Linux. You can keep a copy of the working config file that Puppy created, which will be saved either as /etc/wvdial.conf or ~/.wvdialrc (that's .wvdialrc in your home directory). Put this somewhere safe and you can use it with any distro. If you look in the file, you'll see one or more diallers defined by a section starting with

[Dialer NAME]

You can launch Wvdial directly from a desktop icon or menu item if you wish. Set up a launcher in the usual way (right-click on desktop or run menu editor) and add the command

wvdial NAME

If you want a similar setup to drop the connection, have it run killall wvdial.

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