How to dialup with Debian Linux

Last night I got in and my DSL line wasn’t working. I’ve spent
some time on the phone with the speakeasy support people, and it looks
like a break in the phone line about 400 feet away from my house. The
phone company claims 24-hour response times on problems like this.

They gave me a telephone number to call to get connected to the
internet while the DSL isn’t working.

Luckily I had loaned my modem to a friend who was setting up a
dialup connection and gotten it back, so it was fairly near the
top of the box of unused computer stuff that might be useful some
day. So I crawled around on the floor underneath the computer table
and got it connected to the phone line, a power socket, and a serial
port on the computer.

I vaguely remembered that the command I used to type when I used to
use dialup on linux was wvdial. Luckily, I have this installed on the
current box, and there’s a command named wvdialconf that figures out
what serial port your modem is attached to, and sets up the
configuration file. Then you edit the file with your phone number,
username, and password. I had to call to get my password reset, and
since then I haven’t managed to access the speakeasy mail with either
the old or the new password, but I was getting a connection.

But the connection wasn’t letting me connect to anything. I
floundered around with restarting dns and such, but then I realized
that I wasn’t able to connect even with IP addresses, so it wasn’t the

At this point I was desperate, so I hooked up the creaky old Windows
98 laptop and told it the phone number, username and password. This
“just worked” as far as letting me connect to the internet. I
couldn’t remember enough magic words to be able to access my webmail,
but I was able to google on wvdial, and found a couple of magic words
to try. The one that worked was the following:

route del default
route add default ppp0

I have added this to /etc/ppp/ip-up.local, so we’ll see if I have
to do it next time I dial up. You would think that with all the
things that work automagically about the wvdial thing, they would be
doing this too, but I guess it could easily screw up someone who was
depending on an ethernet connection to file servers and such.

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