Going back many years, purchasing and installing a modem was easy once you
found a shop that carried something affordable and another shop to provide an
RS-232 cable suitable for connecting to the computer. Modems came with a small
booklet containing a few AT
commands and after plugging it
all it, setting the serial line to something like 2400 N,8,1 you were good to
go. If you found the name of the device the modem was attached to (e.g.
/dev/tty3A) the damn things just worked.
If you’ve never typed or seen the likes of
cu or Kermit, you
missed out on liters of coffee and late nights.
/usr/lib/uucp/uucico -r1 to launch
UUCP was the hardest part (no shell
history or TAB completion in those days). Later we tried squeezing an extra bit
or two through the phone lines, and to do so, we invested real cash in Telebit
Trailblazers - the Rolls Royce of UUCP
modems. Those had about a trillion AT commands with which to fine-tune
everything, and we spent nights doing little else but studying the very thick
printed manual that came with the modem and experimenting with which AT
sequence we could slurp Usenet news even faster.
Those were the days. But I digress.
Today we get 3G USM modem sticks for a few Euro, and they’re bitches if you
don’t want to use Windows. The reason: ever since 3 1/2” inch floppy disks went
out of fashion, these USB modem manufacturers have to provide Windows people
with “device drivers” and they chose the worst possible method: plug in the
device, and you see a CD Rom drive. A bit of Windows
.exe magic later, and the
stick becomes a modem with a serial device.
They say over half the Internet stores porn, which may well be – I wouldn’t know about that, but I’ll tell you something: the second half is chock-a-block full of questions by people who use UNIX/Linux on how to get the damn modem sticks switched to serial modem with usb-modeswitch and the likes. Once we overcome that hurdle, we go configure our modem to do PPP or UUCP or whatever. And then we make sure the lot starts on demand, and all is dandy.
And then I commit a terrible mistake: I pull out the USB stick or add some
other USB device. And suddenly my lovingly created and tweaked configuration
ttyUSB0 no longer works because the kernel has decided to give my
modem a shiny new name:
And then I go learn about udev and how I can nail a USB device to a symlink
of my choice,
ttyMODEM, say, and then I find out that the state of the art
USB modem I purchased doesn’t have a unique serial number identifiable with
lsusb and similar tools so I can’t pin it, and I’m back at square one. This
makes it nearly impossible to reliably install this kind of equipment in
inaccessible locations or hand it over to somebody who’s not proficient in
mucking about in configuration files. And what about headless operation? Forget
Let me tell you something: those DB-25 or 9 pin
D-sub things to which we connected
our modems? Those were the days!