[conspire] (forw) Re: help?

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Aug 24 17:45:26 PDT 2004

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 17:44:54 -0700
From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
To: "Grant E. Metcalf" <thegems at shellworld.net>
Subject: Re: help?

Hello, Grant.  Good to hear from you.  (My mother-in-law Cheryl will be
glad to hear the compliment about her telephone persona.)

Might you be able to be driven from SSF to my Linux user group meeting in
Menlo Park, this coming Saturday from 4 PM to midnight?  It's at my and
my wife Deirdre's house, 2033 Sharon Road near Alameda de las Pulgas.
If necessary, I could drive you and your computer home.

The user group is CABAL, http://linuxmafia.com/cabal/ .  We meet on the 
second and fourth Saturday of each month.

You mentioned that the modem is a Sportster 56000.  This appears to be
available as either an external or internal modem.  Linux can handle
either one, but internal modems tend to create problems for numerous
reasons.  One such reason is reliance on the ISA Plug and Play standard,
which requires some configuration in Linux.  The internal version
requires that extra work; the external one doesn't.  (We might be able
to set jumpers on your internal modem, if that's what it is, to disable
Plug and Play mode.  That would make things easier.)

ISA Plug and Play was a (badly designed) effort to make "ISA" cards'
hardware resources (meaning IRQs and I/O base addresses) to be
self-configuring and dynamic, being assigned by the motherboard's ISA
Plug and Play controller chip at boot time.  In order for Linux to then
configure the modem's serial port (using the "setserial" command) as 
Linux boots, it must query the chip to glean that information.  Thus the
need to do some configuration in Linux.

(In case it wasn't obvious:  Linux must initialise the serial port
because that's the only way Linux knows to reach modems.  Thus, the
problem of making Linux able to talk to a modem is equivalant to the job
of making Linux able to talk to the serial port:  All internal modems
consist of a serial port on a board, hard-wired to a modem on the same

You mentioned the option of getting a PCI modem, instead:
Unfortunately, that actually would pose a similar challenge, in that PCI
cards are handed their hardware resource assignments by the PCI
controller chip at boot time.  Thus, in order to configure such a
modem's serial port using "setserial", one must create a script to parse
the output of the "lspci" command (which queries the PCI controller
chip) and constructs an appropriate "setserial" command.

I have an example of such a script here:

I should also mention that most PCI internal modems also pose a much
bigger obstacle:  Practically all PCI internal modems are "winmodems",
modems that have been deliberately manufactured with certain chips
missing that would normally be present, in order to reduce production
cost.  The functionality of those missing chips is then emulated in
software drivers.  

Some winmodems can, with a considerable amount of additional effort, be
supported in Linux.  I personally consider winmodems to not merit that
effort.  In fact, I personally also feel the same way about all internal
modems, and wrote a set of essays to explain why I feel that way:


CABAL has a local, low-traffic mailing list to discuss issues like
yours.  Information about that forum is here:
I hope you won't mind my forwarding a copy of your inquiry (and of this
reply) to that mailing list.  You might consider joining it.

I have no idea about a local helper in South San Francisco.  I'm
personally in Menlo Park and am kept quite busy, but maybe you can
attend a CABAL meeting or get useful help on the mailing list.
Participating in community forums such as that one has major advantage
over seeking help via private e-mail, both for you and for the

Cheers,      "On the face of it, Microsoft complaining about the source license 
Rick Moen    used by Linux is like the event horizon calling the kettle black."
rick at linuxmafia.com             -- Adam Barr, former Microsoft Corp. programmer

----- End forwarded message -----

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