Modems provide an increasingly vital link between your Linux computer and the outside world. Most homes today connect to the Internet through a conventional telephone modem, using PPP or occasionally SLIP. Telephone modems are also useful for non-PPP dial-up connections to an assortment of computers, and as a means to send and receive faxes on your computer. The main Linux compatibility issue with telephone modems is in avoiding Windows-only software modems. The simplest way to do this is to get an external model, but some internal modems are still controller-based, and therefore useful under Linux. An increasing number of software modems also have Linux drivers, although a true controller-based modem is usually superior.

As the need for high-speed Internet access increases, a growing number of individuals and businesses are relying upon DSL and cable modems for their Internet connectivity. In most cases, you configure Linux to use these devices as if the computer were hooked up to an Ethernet network. As a general rule, you should avoid internal and USB-interfaced DSL and cable modems, but all Ethernet-based products work fine with Linux.

Even if you have a DSL or cable modem and appropriate Internet access through this device, you might want to keep a conventional telephone modem. The telephone modem can serve as a backup device in case your DSL or cable service goes down, and it can also be useful for sending and receiving faxes, and possibly also as an answering machine if your telephone modem is voice-capable.

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