Tech News 101: 3 Steps To Fix Dialer Modem on Ubuntu Linux

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After almost a week or so, I have finally got an internet connection up and running on my Linux based home computer.

And I agree that using Linux has not been a walk in the park either since after going through the various forums and reading plenty of documents, some instructions for the newbies did not help much (at least in my case).

Things like “use scanModem” to detect modem chipset were a waste of time to detect my modem chipset. It did not detect my modem chipset till this day and without that information, configuring the modem was like doing major setup in the dark.

(I know that some of you “experienced” Linux users might be shaking your head in disapproval but bear with me will you? After all, when it comes to Linux, I am still a “virgin” at this point).

After able to run mp3 files on my computer (thanks to XMMS – it was easy after all), I had to rethink my strategy to get the internet running on my computer.

The ‘how to do” document helped me to some extent in understanding the right commands and where to check for details but the author, it seems, have prepared the document for the more experienced user.

A lot of small but crucial details were left out and for a newbie like me; it was not a good way to start. Luckily forums (and some experiments) bridged that gap.

Basically, there were 3 things that I needed to do for the internet connection – modem hardware, modem driver and configuration of the both.

Step 1 – detect the hardware

Detecting the hardware was the easy part. Ubuntu automatically detected my modem during the installation.

For me, the auto-detection in Linux is working better than the auto-detection in my “old” Windows XP. Windows XP sometimes fails to detect the modem or the sound card (despite it being an SP2 version and updated to the latest update).

Step 2 – get right drivers

Getting the right drivers was a tough one.

The scanModem failed to work despite me downloading the latest file. The modem folder was not created even after following the correct steps (I double checked – there is none hiding anywhere too).

So, without knowing what chipset my modem was using, I was not able to download the right driver (and by the way, I am using a simple Jaring dial-up and not broadband like Streamyx). One day after several days of trying, I remembered that Windows XP used to detect my modem as a smart link modem (although it was not).

After going through several sites, I managed to narrow down my search for the smart link modem drivers under sl-modem-daemon and sl-modem-source packages.

Now for Linux newbies, the thing about deb packages, as I have learned, is that it does not stand alone.

There are other deb packages needed to be installed first before this package can be installed. Such thing is called “dependencies” and when one is at the Ubuntu packages site for some deb files, the number of dependencies can be overwhelming. It is not a big problem though – the package manager helps out by stating exactly what packages are missing.

The problem is I needed internet to download it and since I have gone 100% Linux on my pc, downloading of the packages need to wait for another day.

Mind you at that point, I still do not know the actual chipset details but I was rather going on a hunch (thankfully, it turned out that I was right in the end). Installation of the sl-modem packages went smoothly and without much hassle.

Once the packages have been safely installed, it was time to do the final step.

Step 3 – to configure the dialer

When it comes to the dialer, there are many ways of doing it (pppconfig, gkdialer,wvdial, etc so I read).

The simple one is to use the “config pppconf” command but one site recommended to use wvdial all the way (from configuration to dialling). I opted for wvdial since my pon did not really work in the end (or maybe because I did not set it right).

I configured the wvdial.conf file and added additional command lines – it took several tries to get it right and when I run the wvdial command, it was able to connect to the ISP but there was a problem with the username.

The ISP could not verify the username. So, I opened up the conf file again and checked – the details seem to be correct. I was wondering what the problem is when I realised that my username details came after the details of my password. Could that be the problem?

I changed the sequence (username comes first) and retried dialling. This time the dialer seems to connect to the ISP.

Nervously, I opened the Firefox browser and clicked to my blog and it opened up without any problem. I was able to update the critical updates to the OS and was able to surf the porn critical software sites again.

Yes, I was back online and on Linux!

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6 thoughts on “Tech News 101: 3 Steps To Fix Dialer Modem on Ubuntu Linux

  1. I hear ya on this. I converted almost 10 years ago to Linux, and learnt FAST to check the hardware support for all part purchases. That meant spending a bit more in some cases, like the external USR and Creative modems, but it was worth it in the end — less of the BS that you unfortunately had to deal with.

    I am not sure how things are these days, but the WinModems I am sure are painful, especially if you need to use ndiswrapper or some hack like that.

    For all visitors, Linux is great, but like all OS’s, if you need to screw around it can suck. My bad Windows experience was trying to get some USb devices working right on my at that time new XP laptop. The Zaurus was the worst, and the HP printer was a close #2. On Linux these were a bit better for the Zaurus, and damn easy for the printer (CUPS knew my printer already).

    If you have issues, feel free to stop by my site and drop me a line. Or visit the forums I am very active in at OpenFree.org and ask for help there. Chances are SOMEBODY can answer it perfectly for you. We have alot of old school, recent converts, and noobs over there that love to either help, or share a story or three.

    PS – Modems are the #1 complaint I see over there and on the distro support forums. Will it get fixed .. who knows, since most nations are getting fairly decent broadband for cheap or affordable rates. That sucks for nations that dont, or those that are stuck in DUN only or for on the road where WiFi isnt available. But what can we do? B!tch? Thats fine by my book; let your voice be heard.

  2. Schotty – thanks for the great tip and help. Ya, modem problem seem to be one the main complaints but surprisingly online help is not much of a help.

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