Will Linux still work with copper wire 56k dial up?

Jay Blair

Apr 27, 2019
Reaction score
With all the continuous background things going on in Windows 10, I have both friends who live where faster speed internet is available and neighbors here in the sticks without cable or dependable satellite and we are still using dial up copper line dial up and USRobotics fax modems.

Regardless of connection abilities, all of us are trying to find if a Linux o/s will work for our minimal online uses without the slow services of the current Microsoft offerings.

In this area even cellphone access is sketchy but the coverage shortfalls are usually of minimal concern in exchange for the peace and quiet.

The common thing myself and the others getting tired of MS making our Win 8.1 harder to use to check mail , simple platforms and correspondence chess sites are looking for is a Linux that is close in ease to the Windows we have used for decades.

When I was asked to look into it I thought that maybe Mint would be a good alternative because some sites indicate the desktop is similar enough to Windows for the retirees in this quiet out in the sticks hollow.

Would the latest Mint version play okay with 20th century 56k?

I understand Linux is the open source progression of Unix and although retired 20 years out of the hardware and server maintenance tech side of the industry, I remember how the old Unix systems were almost as confusing as programming in machine code when we repaired hardware and the software guys gave us diagnostic software to load to test the repairs.

Would Mint be a good version to load to a live USB for me to familiarize with and move 11 folks in their 60s to 80s to before Windows 8.1 loses support in 2023?

The five of us living in this square mile or so of 1999 on dial up could keep whatever Linux version updated from higher speed connection if I can bring updates home on USB from the 6 of our group with high speed internet as part of their urban area cable TV 10 miles away.

My apologies at the length of this post but at 20 years out of the computer and I.T. sector as a hardware mechanic , I accept that I am a technology dinosaur, but Windows has made it easy to date for the simple needs those of my group have until the new MS era. Now I as a dinosaur have to find the best non MS alternative for 10 dinosaurs older than I.

Clarifications regarding the many Linux options that would load and work best with our restricted access options is appreciated.

We are almost birthday twins, Jay, but I am 27 September and 1957

(Wizard appears in a puff of smoke)

G'day @Jay Blair and welcome to linux.org :), I am Aussie, did anything give it away, Mate?

WOW that is an interesting question!

The Linux kernel was developed by Finnish born Linus Torvalds in 1991, while all the rest of us were going WOW at Windows 3.0 and Windows 3.1. So it was initially built to run on slow speeds.

You would effectively have to deploy a "standard fit" to every dinosaur's computer - same Linux Distribution (eg Mint), same version, down to the dot point. For example we are into the LM 19 series currently, at v19.2. The 19 series is based on Ubuntu's 18.04 'Bionic Beaver', and they support that until April 2023, which would certainly suit your timeframe.

The weakest point in the chain will be the stegosaurus who has the PC with the lowest grunt, and to choose a Linux that suits that PC. That might require getting the specs of each and every reptile's rig, and then running the lowest common denominator by us.

I run 90 LInux spread mainly over 2 rigs, so I will certainly have some recommendations, if you are interested.

You could also Google up

Linux User Groups <my state>

and see if there is one near you, they may have input.

A little reading for you is on DEs (Desktop Environments), these are a bit like the Look and Feel differences between the various versions of Windows, and some have certain apps and File Managers attached to them. Some of the DEs will more closely resemble Windows, some not.


Also make distrowatch.com your friend, and its Page Hit Ranking page will show you which Distros get the most hits for downloads.

MX-18 is currently top, and one of my recommendations.

I have to go for my evening DownUnder, but I will keep an eye on this Thread.

Chris Turner
Just for the record Jay, internet speed is internet speed, regardless of your OS. Linux won't be any different than Windows is with a 56K modem. What's going to be different on a slow connection is how long it takes to download your updates and load web pages.
@Vrai has a good link there, and I am also far removed from dial up days now too. When you said "USRobotics modems" though, it did make me think you have a chance if everyone is using those... and assuming that they are the old hardware type mode with jumpers so you can set the COM port and IRQ. These are serial devices, and Linux will not identify them like "COM 1" but it is possible to communicate with them and make them work. Well, it used to be possible... I just can't say anymore. My memory is very vague, but I think you'd set COM1/IRQ4 on the modem, and Linux would identify that as /dev/ttyS0.

You'll probably need to Google around for "PPP" (Point-to-Point Protocol) and how to configure it. It's probably still contained in mainstream Linux, but maybe not... you may have to install it.

Thanks for advice, suggestions and links, I will study them all and make notes if I find myself hitting a wall and not understanding something. Hopefully though the links will take me through live USB creation on one of the PCs I loaded with basic DVD 8.1 o/s as this copper wire connected PC so the next time I am here I will be trying out a live distro and a step closer to ditching Windows instead of asking for more advice. :)
I did get to a DSL speed PC to try to load a live USB with a distro and the integrity file , which from reading verifies the Linux distro similar to EPROM programming devices in the old days did checksums from the master program ROM .

Unfortunately while trying to copy the files, the attempt failed and in further reading of Linux USBs since, some information indicated 3.0 flash drives and ports were needed and the only flash drives I have at this time are 2.0 mid capacity drives and my 2 week paycheck isn't here yet.

So while waiting to get the cash to buy some large capacity 3.0 flash drives to try make a live drive again, I verified which ports were 3.0 on this PC.

It's a pain living on a retiree budget, but paying the bills to keep the lights on while waiting for the paycheck from the company pension plan with some not earmarked for bills in it provides time to study so I don't lobotomize any of our PCs before we are ready to totally ditch Microsoft from our lives :)
some information indicated 3.0 flash drives and ports were needed

Not true. USB 2.0 drives, or even 1.0, will work fine. If you have USB 3.0 ports on the computer, they are backward compatible. Save your money! :D But your USB drives DO need to be large enough to write the .iso file... probably a 4GB minimum (without persistence, or with little persistence).

Verifying the checksum of the .iso download is always a good idea. An excellent (free) Windows program for this task can be found at https://bhoover.com/how-to-verify-checksum-windows/ (Linux has built-in tool for this.)

until just a few years ago i used dialup under Ubuntu as backup for my cable modem as cable was on poles and phone lines were underground i had cheap usb winmodems working as late as ubuntu 12.04 that was the last kernel series i could find modem driver modification instructions for. after that the only modem i had that worked was my old usrobotics pci card hardware modem. but with hardware modems it is still possible to to do dialup. one thing firefox is absolutely useless over dialup only browser that currently works over dialup is opera with its proxy and proprietary compression turned on and it works pretty well actually makes dialup amazingly useful last time i tried it couple years ago. you could go back to 12.04lts and use winmodems as it will be imposable to update over dialup anyway. i know people who are still plugging along with 10.04lts with a few manual patches to cover the major holes. i would suggest a Xfce desktop environment for older computers.
It's ironic and timely that you replied to this first thread of mine here. Thanks for the information to study.

I am making some progress, but studying and trying hand carries from high speed to dial up zones between my real life day tasks is steady but also slow as I work , rest and study.

Yesterday while at a friends house who has cable, I downloaded Ubuntu 18.04.3 from ubuntu.com to the USB I now most always have in my pocket and although the stick initially showed both the ISO and checksum files but when I got back here to 56k dial up zone, the checksum integrity file was gone from my pocket carry stick when I started to make a live drive here.

Although I saw both files on the removable stick when I started the 1.9 GB desktop download, I didn't see it as my friend unmounted the stick as I was cleaning up after we fixed his wife's car.

I have all of us here on dial up hardware updated to 64 bit PCs and non windows proprietary modems now, but still trying to find the easiest to PPP connect.

After I try to reload the ISO and checksum integrity files, if I succeed in creating a live stick , I will keep your suggestion of the Opera browser in mind.