04 Sep 2005

how to get dial up (the hard way)


so ever since i moved into the new place, i've been trying to get some sort of internet connection working. so the idea was to wait for adsl to be installed while we applied for a free 1 month trial of aol to quench our network thirst. turns out that its been much more difficult that i imagined.

how do i use modems in this country??

it took me nearly a week to figure out why i couldn't dial out of the telephone line. at first, i thought it was the modem on my powerbook, but i tried it with all sorts of modems on pc laptops, pcmcia modems, etc, all of them couldn't dial out, so i thought it might of been the line. after looking at it more, i spotted a difference in the lines that go to the telelphone and those that go into a modem. difference being that the lines that the modem uses only have the middle two wires connected, and the ones that go into the phone line have the outer two plus one in the middle. i suppose the inner two carry data and the outer two carry power, or something like that?

finally solved the problem when my adsl modem arrived, included was a dongle splits the wall socket into two lines, one that is the elongated uk telephone plug and the other is the standard square plug that you see on the side of laptops. so apparently you just can't use the normal telephone line that plugs into your handset and plug it straight into your modem.


aolhell

aol on windows is a piece of shit. it doesn't appear as a normal ppp connection, so you can't actualy right click on anything and say "share this connection."

on mac, there is this nice tool called aol connect which is a 1.7M download (compared to the 30M download for the ful blown aol client), and it is a little dodgy because it doesn't expose a network device either, however, because the base is BSD, i can just use natd and ipfw to do internet sharing instead of using apple's interface. sweet!

i also booted up a laptop using knoppix (actually it is the auditor live cd) and tried to get the modem to work. to my surprise, the modem is detected as the SmartLink Agere SoftModem (on the intel chipset) and is actually working, however, it fails to detect the dialtone. reading some of the archives on the net seem to suggest that they only got it fixed properly on 2.6.12.1 kernel. funnily enough, the modem is somehow connected to the alsa device (smart guys, using the DSP on the sound card for the modem as well .. very cunning!) and apparently the bug is within alsa, and not the driver itself. so i didn't have any luck getting the modem working. even if i got the modem working, i still had to make sure i could get pengaol or penggy to work, which is the aol compatible dialer that uses either tun/tap or some weird mechanism to dial up to aol. in the end i gave up because it was just too hard to get all the pieces together. someone really should make a linux live cd version of the famous aol cd!

one other thing that happened, while i was sharing the internet connection through my mac to other computers in the house, i discovered that it was not possible to correctly use the aol website from any comptuer other than the one that is directly connected. seemed quite weird, because i couldn't download the full client off their site on a windows machine. not that eventually it helped at all.

finally, do i have network?

well, right now we have a 46777bps link serving the house, which isn't so bad, except that the only working telephone cable i have can only reach around 1.5 metres, so i'm stuck using my mac near a wall next to the bed. really sucks. so i might have to go back to setting up the laptop with knoppix and routing free (but unstable) wifi to the house until adsl is installed mid week. seemed not worth the effort to get a knoppix cd to work with the modem and aol.

but at least now i have enough access to actually let you know about my woes!


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