What if you don't have Internet? If you have a modem and phone, MIT has a free service with which you can connect to Athena to accomplish most common tasks such as email.
MIT's free modem dialup service is useful if you have a modem and want to connect to Athena from somewhere without Internet. You may be in this situation if you are traveling (and brought a computer with modem with you), if the network has gone down in your building, if you have a computer without Internet capability, or if you live off-campus and do not have an ISP.
This service is not to be confused with MIT Tether (http://web.mit.edu/is/help/tether/), a for-pay modem dialup which works like a commercial ISP.
First and foremost, it is not really an Internet connection, but only a connection to Athena. Therefore, you will not be able to use programs such as your Web browser (Netscape, IE, etc.), Eudora, or AIM over the connection. We will describe how to browse the web and check email below.
The service is also very slow, running at 14.4 Kbps. A typical commercial telephone ISP is 56 Kbps, or 4 times faster. Your dorm network connection is probably 10Mbps, or 700 times faster.
Finally, MIT Information Systems has notified us that they plan to discontinue this service in the near future. So on one hand, use it now, while it still exists; on the other hand, if you feel this service is useful and would like to see it continued, you can express your support to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or your favorite appropriate MIT administrator.
Under Windows, you can use the built-in program HyperTerminal (in Accessories -> Communications). Under Macintosh, you will have to download and install a modem-terminal program: Zterm is a popular choice. Linux users often use Kermit or Minicom. A web search will find these programs. There is a little chicken-and-egg problem of getting these programs if you have no Internet in the first place. You may want to copy them onto ZIP disks or burn them onto CD.
Whatever software you choose to use, you will probably have to enter some modem connection settings. The settings to enter are "8" Data bits, "No" Parity, and "1" Stop bit. (These are usually the default settings for Windows HyperTerminal.) For port speed, you should set 14400, and duplex "Full Duplex". The "terminal emulation" you want is VT100 or VT102. To have the Backspace key work normally for programs such as Emacs, you want set the Backspace key to send "Delete".
The phone number is 617-258-7096. If you are dialing in from campus, only 8-7096 is needed.
If you are using this service while traveling and want to use a calling card, you will need to insert commas into the phone number to wait for the voice prompts. The commas create pauses during dialing. For example, for the TSI calling cards sold from the kiosk on the first floor of W20, you would enter the very long phone number "18773331815,,,,xxxxxxxxxx,,,16172587096", where "xxxxxxxxxx" is the PIN number for your phone card. Windows HyperTerminal also has a alternate interface for using a calling card that lets you specify the phone numbers, PIN, and the length of pauses in between.
Do NOT use a calling card with a high connect fee. The service is a little flaky, and it often requires a few tries until the connection works.
After you connect, you will get a "pasta" prompt, usually "LASAGNE.MIT.EDU>". Remember it may take a few tries to connect. At the pasta prompt, type "athena" to connect to Athena, and log on with your username and password. You will receive a warning the the connection is unencrypted. You can ignore it; the network between lasagne.mit.edu and athena.dialup.mit.edu is a secure network on which it is difficult for intruders to eavesdrop and steal your password. At the "Terminal type" prompt, you can usually just press Enter.
Pine is the recommended program to check email over a dialup connection. Just type "pine" to start it. However, if you already use the various MH programs (inc, from, comp, send, etc.) then you can continue to use them, too.
add infoagents at the
prompt. The programs
w3m are both
text-mode web browsers. Lynx is more popular, and handles cookies
correctly, while w3m handles tables well. Of course, neither program
displays images. To start either program, type its name followed by
the URL you wish to browse, for example
If you use Mozilla in the Athena clusters, you can access your bookmarks file with the following commands
athena% find .mozilla -name bookmarks.html .mozilla/default/random/bookmarks.html athena% lynx .mozilla/default/random/bookmarks.html
The exact output of the "find" command will differ from user to user. Copy the output of the "find" command to the argument to lynx (or w3m).
There are two common programs that can handle zephyrgrams. You can
zwgc -ttymode at the
athena% prompt to
receive zephyrgrams directly on the terminal. Or, the program
in the ktools locker) also manages zephyr well. The help command in
owl is "h", which will get you started. You can read more about owl
from our March 7 column, at http://www.mit.edu/~asksipb/
Unlike an Athena cluster workstation, you cannot have multiple terminal windows open at once running multiple programs. There are two ways to get around this limitation.
Typing Control-z will suspend the current program you are running and give you an Athena prompt, where you can start a new program. Typing "jobs" will give you a list of all the suspended programs you have, with a number to the left of each one. You can resume any suspended program with "fg %N", where N is the number from the jobs command.
The other method is to use the very powerful "screen" program in the gnu locker. Start your first program, say pine, with "screen pine". To create a new "virtual terminal", type "Control-a c". This will give you a new athena prompt. To switch between virtual terminals, type "Control-a n". If you need to type "Control-a" for any application (like Emacs), type "Control-a a" instead. For example, to start pine, lynx, and owl, one would do
athena% add gnu ktools infoagents athena% screen pine Control-a c athena% lynx Control-a c athena% owl
Then, "Control-a n" switches between the programs.
Beware that transferring files is extremely slow. For downloading
files from Athena to your computer, you can use
sz (in the sipb
kermit (does not require adding a locker). Kermit is
more reliable, but is slower. To download a file with sz, simply type
sz filename and the file will automatically start
downloading. You might have to tell your modem terminal program to
begin receiving a file. For kermit, start it with
For uploading files from your computer to Athena, only Kermit
works. Start it with
athena% kermit, then type
receive to put Kermit in Receive mode. Next tell your
modem terminal program to start sending a file using the Kermit
protocol. For example, in HyperTerminal, use the Transfer
After a transfer is complete, type
quit to exit
As a note, do not try to run
from within a "screen" session mentioned in the previous question.
You cannot do anything on Athena while a file is transferring.
athena% exit. You may have to type it several
times if you were running "screen". At the lasagne.mit.edu prompt,
exit as well. Your modem should then hang up.
Visit the webpage http://web.mit.edu/olh/Dialup/Dialup.html