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15. Communications Programs And Utilities

While PPP is used for Internet access you also need a dialer program (or script) that will work with PPP. Such a dialer program will dial a phone number. When the other side answers the phone then three things happen: a modem connection is established (CONNECT), PPP is started at both ends, and you get logged in automatically. The exact sequence of the last 2 events may vary. Dialer programs for ppp include wvdial, chap scripts, kppp, RP3, Linuxconf, and gnome-ppp.

There are also other dialer programs which can dial out directly (thru a modem) to local libraries, etc. This isn't the Internet. minicom is the most popular followed by Seyon (X-Windows only) and Kermit. People have likely also used these programs for dialing out with ppp for the Internet but it's not what they were originally designed for.

15.1 Minicom vs. Kermit

Minicom is only a communications program while Kermit is both a communications program and a file transfer protocol. But one may use the Kermit protocol from within Minicom (provided one has Kermit installed on one's PC). Minicom is menu based while Kermit is command line based (interactive at the special Kermit prompt). While the Kermit program is free software, the documentation is not all free. There is no detailed manual supplied and it is suggested that you purchase a book as the manual. However Kermit has interactive online help which tells all but lacks tutorial explanations for the beginner. Commands may be put in a script file so you don't have to type them over again each time. Kermit (as a communications program) is more powerful than Minicom.

Although all Minicom documentation is free, it's not as extensive as Kermit's. Since permission is required to include Kermit in a commercial distribution, and since the documentation is not entirely free, some distributions don't include Kermit. In my opinion it's easier to set up Minicom, there is less to learn, and you can still use kermit from within Minicom.

15.2 List of Communication Software

Here is a list of some communication software you can choose from, If they didn't come with your distribution they should be available via FTP. I would like comparative comments on the dialout programs. Are the least popular ones obsolete?

Least Popular Dialout

Most Popular Dialout


By using a fax program, you may use most modems to send faxes. In this case you dial out directly and not via ppp and an ISP. You also pay any long-distance telephone charges. email is more efficient.

Voicemail Software

Dial-in (uses getty)


15.3 SLiRP and term

SLiRP and term are programs which are of use if you only have a dial-up shell account on a Unix-like machine and want to get the equivalent of a PPP account (or the like) without being authorized to have it (possibly because you don't want to pay extra for it, etc.). SLiRP is more popular than term which is almost obsolete.

To use SLiRP you install it in your shell account on the remote computer. Then you dial up the account and run SLiRP on the remote and PPP on your local PC. You now have a PPP connection over which you may run a web browser on your local PC such as Netscape, etc. There may be some problems as SLiRP is not as good as a real PPP account. Some accounts may provide SLiRP since it saves on IP addresses (You have no IP address while using SLiRP).

term is something like SLiRP only you need to run term on both the local and remote computer. There is no PPP on the phone line since term uses its own protocol. To use term from your PC you need to use a term-aware version of ftp to do ftp, etc. Thus it's easier to use SLiRP since the ordinary version of ftp works fine with SLiRP. There is an unmaintained Term HOWTO.

15.4 MS Windows

If you want someone who uses MS Windows to dial in to your Linux PC then if they use:

Third party dial-out programs include HyperTerminal Private Edition.

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