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ppp: invocation by users? and pppd dies - reports SIGHUP - why?

I would like to allow users to open the PPP link themselves as needed,
rather than doing it at boot time via /etc/init.d/ppp (or making them su
to root and running pppd). I would be grateful if anyone has an opinion
about the nicest way to do this under Debian. (Given that the binary is
under /usr/sbin, I guess users are not expected to use it, so I am
resigned to transgressing against Debian to some extent.) As I understand
it, I can do this by chmod-ing the pppd binary to be suid, with root as
the owner. For further security, I can create a group ppp, chown pppd to
root.ppp, give only the group execute access to pppd, and add the relevant
users to the group ppp. Finally, as the binary is in /usr/sbin, there is
an aesthetic question about whether the users should include this in their
path, or if I should make a link from /usr/local/bin/pppd (or something)
to /usr/sbin/pppd. (I know diald exists, but I wanted to get a simple 
solution working first.)

The following question might not be Debian-related, apologies in that case...

I am using the latest version of ppp (2.2) and the 1.2.13 kernel that
includes support for it. I use pppd (and chat) to connect to a provider
via my modem and the telephone line. This seems to work fine in that it
sets up the IP connection correctly; I can ping, telnet, rlogin, ftp, ...
- made me very happy. My problem is that after a few minutes of
"inactivity" on the IP link, pppd dies. (I don't understand IP well enough
to claim the link is really inactive. What I mean is that I am not running
ping, rlogin, ftp, ... Also, on one occasion I had an rlogin going but I
wasn't doing anything on it.) /var/log/daemon.log shows a report from pppd
that it is terminating because of SIGHUP. I personally didn't send pppd a
SIGHUP. (As far as I know!)

I would like to know why pppd is dying like this. Is something sending it
a SIGHUP signal? Is it killing itself? Is it set up by default to kill
itself after a few minutes of inactivity? This would be reasonable enough,
but in that case, how can I change this behaviour? Basically I want to
have control over when the link dies. (I found the persist flag in the man
page, but as I understand it this will make it re-connect, whereas I would
prefer it not to terminate the link in the first place.)

Thanks in advance for help
Philip Tuckey

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