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two net Q's: (1) serial nfs/ppp, (2) dropped gateway route

I'm using the Debian 1.1 release, 2.0.6 kernel.  Two questions, one
concerning a serial cable link, the other on an ethernet:

(1) I'm accessing an nfs mounted drive on my desktop from my notebook
over a serial cable (thanks all!).  Sometimes it works great,
sometimes (especially when copying a long list of files) I get "error,
server not responding, still trying."  The man page on the timeout
sequence doesn't seem to match what's happening: I get the error
message once, and the session locks up forever.  Will adjusting the
timeout fix this?  What's the *right* thing to do?

(2) Elsewhere, on a different machine, I've set up an ethernet
connection which generally is working well (after about a week now),
but twice today I've lost my gateway route without any notice or
warning.  Surely this isn't normal (right?) but what can I do?  Why
does this happen, and what's the best fix?  (My network and loopback
routes are intact, but I lose my gateway.  I have to restart to get it

Thank you for any pointers.

(As a newcomer to debian/linux networking, I'm trying to work out most
glitches by rolling up my sleeves, but these are semi-critical
problems so I'd greatly appreciate some quick help and/or "correct"
fixes if you can provide them.  Thanks.)

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