Fax Modem on Librem 5 phone and Latops?


#1

I travel a lot overseas and often find myself needing to send a message to the US or other Embassies and Consulates. While most have email addresses, most don’t answer them. I guess they figure that if really important and timely messages are being sent, they’ll either get a fax, a phone call. If I want the message to be in printed form, that leaves only faxing. Afaik, no Apple or Android phone has this feature. That begs the question, “why not?”

I’m not sure if this is a hardware or software issue. Since, all phones generate tones to address the receiver’s device, I have to assume it’s software. For a Laptop, there may be additional hardware necessary. BTW, I change SIM cards as often as I change countries; so, if I need to receive faxes, I’ll subscribe to an online service. I know online services can send faxes too; but, they’ll usually be located in North America or Europe. That often won’t work for the far-east and Russia, because the Qos, is often too poor. Yes, I’ve tried it; it sucks!

How difficult would it be to add this feature to the Librem 5, or even an Android or Apple phone? So far I haven’t been able to find an app. I must assume it’s not impossible…

What about the Librem Laptops? I’m sure redesigning the mobos is a deal killer; but, what about add-on devices? Does anyone know of a Linux compatible USB dialup-fax modem? Since, fewer homes and flats still have landlines, I also assume it will have to be “wireless” and need a SIM card. That complicates the specs a bit. Does anyone know of something like this (portable)? It will save me not only the cost of printing; but, also the time and trouble of traveling (both ways) to a copy-shop and time on site.


#2

Should be fairly straightforward for the L5… I believe there is still a linux fax program running around. Have to see how bit-rotted it is, and get it to compile on ARM, then just have to dial the fax number and hook the fax program through pulseaudio to have it “talk” to the fax machine on the other end. Without a fax machine and an L5, I can’t actually test it for you, but if you give it a try and run into trouble we can probably give advice.


#3

There may be an issue with the cell network being packet-switched as opposed to fax lines traditionally being circuit-switched. I didn’t think it was possible, but after looking into it, it looks like one company got it working. The device is discontinued though.

I have a landline that’s POTS-over-fiber (not VOIP), and I’d guess the fiber section operates as a packet-switched network. I don’t have to do anything special on my fax machine/printer to make it work, so it should be possible.

USB fax modems do exist (here’s one from Lenovo), but I don’t know how good their Linux support is. Given that most of the options on Newegg seem to be older, I’d guess they should be supported. If not, there’s always ndiswrapper.


#4

Probably the best bet is to use an internet based fax sender and use that via data connection.


#5

The problem with using an efax service is that you have to trust that they won’t read/store/sell any document you send them.


#6

Fax is as unencrypted as it gets :smiley:, so anybody on the way can listen in. The OP had an online fax service to receive faxes anyway, so they need to trust it…


#7

That’s true, and realistically it’s probably the most convenient way to go, but it introduces an extra party to the transaction voluntarily and uses an internet protocol, and there are probably far more people who know how to intercept internet traffic than cell network traffic. If someone’s going to spy on my faxes, I want them to have to work for it!

Landlines are vulnerable to someone with physical access to the line and specialized equipment, but those two requirements alone dramatically reduce the chance of attack which is why fax is considered a secure (in the sense of “good enough if encrypted file transfer isn’t an option,” not in the sense of “cryptographically secure”) way to send documents.


#8

That’s true - it certainly wouldn’t meet security standards for many organisations. A fax service is worse than real fax, even though real fax is completely unencrypted, since a fax service increases the number of parties with intercept access.

@rdrytf also commented that a fax service is problematic because of the need for a local sender i.e. to use a fax service for that user’s use case might require a fleet of fax services, with local send points in a range of countries, covering the countries likely to be visited.

There could be a cost consideration too if e.g. you are in, say, Vietnam and you flick your fax over to North America via the internet (all good) and then the North American send point sends the fax internationally from North America back to Vietnam.