Using Freeserve with Linux

There are two phases associated with getting online with Freeserve. The first is that of subscribing and the second, connecting once subscribed. This page will explain both parts. But first, the standard disclaimer:


I don't work for Freeserve and they presently don't support Linux or any other form of Unix. Hence, all of the information provided in this document is provided on an "as-is" basis. If your computer breaks, you get to keep both bits.


Last time I heard, the people from Freeserve recommend that you use a 'scripted login' rather than CHAP or PAP authentication -- that is, get the chat script to wait for "ogin:" and send the user ID, wait for "ord:" and send the password.

However, I have had limited success this way. I would suggest that you try both and stick with the method that works!



To subscribe to Freeserve, you need to configure pppd. Once online, fire up Netscape or another browser that supports secure HTTP (HTTPS) and fill in the forms on Freeserve's page.

Before you dial

You must configure a few files, if you have not already done this. Information about what you're actually doing is in the PPP-HOWTO. There would appear to be a plethora of PPP configuration tools, such as pppconfig and Kppp, which will do all this for you. See Appendix A for what to tell pppconfig, and Appendix B for instructions on Kppp.

# /etc/ppp/options
# You may want to change /dev/modem to
# ttyS or use a symlink
user freeservesignup
connect '/usr/sbin/chat -v -f /etc/ppp/chat-freeserve'
# /etc/ppp/chat-freeserve
# Abort if the modem gives any of these:
# Replace the next line with a more appropriate modem
# init string if you find one
"" ATZ
OK ATDT08450796699
# /etc/ppp/pap-secrets
freeservesignup * signup
# /etc/resolv.conf
# /etc/host.conf
order hosts,bind
multi on

Now for the interesting bit! You've set-up the PPP daemon and you just have to start it up with the command pppd /dev/modem 115200 debug kdebug 1. See what happens!

If everything seems OK, check the output of the ifconfig command. It should have an entry for ppp0 with non-zero local and remote IP numbers. Now check the output from route to check that there is a default gateway configured. Try to nslookup the machine by name: nslookup

If something is wrong, pull down the link with killall pppd and if you're paranoid, check that the modem's not still warbling by picking up the phone! Go back and check that the files are correct. Failing this, read the pppd manpage and the PPP-HOWTO. If you find that the settings I have suggested are wrong for you, tell me and I'll consider altering this document.

Presuming that you're connected now, all Freeserve gives you at this point is access to their nameserver and the signup machine. So point your Web browser at and fill in the forms it shows you. Note that you have to tick something in the "Please tell us your interests" bit and that there is a box at the bottom you'll probably want to tick to say that you don't want them to use your details for bulk-mailing.

I've been told that if you want to register multiple accounts, you have to start a new browser each time. This may be due to some underlying effect so if anyone knows of a more efficient way to do this, do tell.

Hang up with killall pppd and go on to the next section. Sorry -- that's the way you have to do it because Freeserve don't allow unauthenticated access to anything but their DNS and

Connecting now you've subscribed

The configuration files that I was talking about earlier are still valid, for the most part. However, you'll want to change the pap-secrets file to:

# /etc/ppp/pap-secrets * yourpassword

and the user field in /etc/ppp/options to

Now connect again. Everything should be in place. I should imagine that you'll probably not want to have all the debug information logged any more, so just use pppd /dev/modem 115200.

You need to know that your outgoing mail goes to and your incoming mail is to be retreived from (which is, obviously, a pop3 server).

News is through

What to do with these details is in the ISP-Hookup-HOWTO, although I find Richard Corfield's page about configuring mail and news for Freeserve to be better.

Please note that there is no way to read your mail or upload stuff to your Web page when you're not on your dial-up Freeserve account.

Appendix A: Using pppconfig

Richard Corfield tells me that he signed up using the folowing details:

Authentication: PAP
Password: signup
UserID: freeservesignup
Device: /dev/modem (*)
Speed: 115200 (*)
Modem Init String: ATZ (*)
Number: 08450796699
Dial: Tone (*)

The asterisks denote that you may want to customise these fields.

Also, please note that if you want to actually use (rather than just sign up to) Freeserve with these details, you must change your username to something like and your password.

Appendix B: Using Kppp

This section is due entirely to an e-mail from Stephen H. Price. He tells me the following:

I have it all working under Kppp (on FreeBSD but that shouldn't matter). I used CHAP authentication, Dynamic IP, added the nameservers to the box, added the following to the login script:

EXPECT ogin:
              <-- this field is blank

It worked intermintently without the pause, I'm not sure if the pause makes any difference, but I got through first time with it.

He also says that choosing PAP authentication works OK too.
Last modified: Fri Jun 11 11:01:37 BST 1999