Project: Improved dialup to Auburn

Why would I want this?

I don’t know how many of you have tried dialing into Auburn, but you probably find there are some serious limitations, some of which are:

Auburn’s dialups frequently busy when you want it, although it’s not as bad as it used to be
DUC’s modems only support up to 14.4k so if you have a better modem you can’t take advantage
DUC does not offer PPP or SLIP connections, so you can’t run Netscape and such from home.
Now if you call DUC and ask them about this, they will probably tell you there are a couple of options, namely:

Get MCI’s AU-Access (but of course, this costs money)
If you’re bold, try using SLURP or some other SLIP emulator (but they’re hard to setup, don’t work with all applications, and are still very slow.

What do I need?

So, I’ve come up with a way to allow you to do your own dialup with home, completely bypassing DUC and those wretched Xyplexes. In order for this to work, you must have a computer at the University that is on the Auburn network and meets a few simple requirements:

It must be an IBM compatible machine, 386 or better, with at least 8 MB of RAM
It must have a modem in it. At least a 14.4k modem if you wish to do PPP and run Netscape
25 MB of hard drive space for a local install OR 400k (yes, a floppy disk is fine) for a network install (the better method anyway)
At home, you can use any computer that you use to dial up to the University. If you wish to use Netscape or other graphical applications, you will need a reasonably fast machine at home. Your home computer can be a Macintosh without any problems.

What do I get out of it?

If everything goes according to plan, you be able to dial directly into your office computer and:

Bypass the Xyplexes entirely. No more busy signals.
Have text based dialup. If you wish, you can use only a text based communications program to access your office computer and the Internet, as you normally do through Auburn.
Have PPP based dialup. You can use Netscape, IRC, FTP, and just about any network application from home without the expense of AU-access

Great, so how do I get it?

Eventually, I will release a stand alone version of the software that any reasonably experienced user can install. For now, you should contact me and tell me you’re interested. I’ll be glad to go by your office and evaluate whether your computer qualifies for this software for no charge, and go over the details of its setup and use. If your computer does qualify and you would like to have me install the software, I will be able to do that for a reasonable charge (I am a student, after all). If you wish to install the software yourself, you can arrange to get a copy of the software from me at no charge, of course.

Just curious, how does this all work?

Only the technically literate and curious should read this part. If you don’t know much about networking, this will probably sound like gibberish and will confuse you. The arrangement of this scenario is a network slight-of-hand. It is Linux of course (if you’ve read the main marko page) which allows this to be done.

Essentially, here is what happens:
A minimal Linux installation is put on the host computer. Preferably, this consists only of a Linux kernel and boot loader, as the entire filesystem can be run off the network.
A client machine dials up the host. A special “getty” program called “mgetty” detects the ringing and makes a note of it. The host machine does not know whether this is a human or a computer calling.
The client machine hangs up, waits 15 to 30 seconds, then immediately calls back.
With the second set of ringing, the host knows this is a computer calling and establishes a connection to the client machine
A “login” prompt is presented to the user at the client machine. The user may login with a predetermined username and password, and then proceed to telnet ftp, or use lynx to any location on the net.
If a valid PPP packet is received instead of the user logging in, the client and host machines negotiate a PPP connection using the IP addresses and, which have already been assigned for computers not on the Internet.
The host machine then masquerades the client machine so that all activity appears to be happenning on the host.

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