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A Simple Internet Dialer for Linux

By Martin Vermeer

Those of us that have used Netscape (or other Web browsers) under Windows, may have felt some envy at the sight of the Dialer, a little box in one corner of the screen showing that you are on-line and how much time you have already spent on-line, so your phone bill doesn't go overboard.

In Linux, on the other hand, setting up a dial-up connection and making it work is often a rather painful process, a "challenge", if you like: Not only no handy auto-install packages available from your internet service provider -- you have to figure out everything for yourself, and know what questions to ask -- but also establishing the connection every time requires you to go through a sequence of operations.

Open an xterm or a virtual console, log in as root, and run the ppp startup script (unless of course you use the  diald package for dial-on-demand, an alterative also. I personally found that it had too much a mind of its own :-).

Closing the connection similarly requires you to do the same to run a disconnect script.

One of the first things I did therefore when I decided to learn tcl/tk was to write a Dialer look-alike. It (tkdial) is attached to this text; it is the first tcl/tk program I ever wrote -- just under 150 lines -- and that may show.  But tcl/tk is ideal for this kind of job, "glueing" existing command line facilities together into a beautiful motif-look, mouseable package. Just have a look at the pictures!

[link down] [link up]

You can put a call to this script somewhere in your X startup, in the case of Red Hat 5.0, in the file /etc/X11/Anotherlevel/fvwf2rc.init. Then you will always have it on your desktop (Linux lives on connectivity!).  It gives precise, interactive, manual control of your ppp link.

There are some things with a dial-up connection which appear not generally known (I'm  not talking to you, geeks and gurus :-). I'll give a quick run-down of my experiences as I understood them (but note that I am no professional):

Acknowledgement: I am indebted to Jaakko Hyvätti of EUnet Finland, who provided me with working ppp scripts and plenty good advice.


(a piece of my desktop:)


[my desktop]

Copyright © 1998, Martin Vermeer
Published in Issue 25 of Linux Gazette, February 1998