Send a fax from the laptop

My bank sent me a PDF form via e-mail. I needed to fill it in, then send it back via fax. Send it back via e-mail would not work because it's not secure. The bank agrees that this is fantastically silly, but apparently this requirement is not their fault.

Step 1: send a fax with the laptop

  1. apt-get source sl-modem-daemon efax-gtk
  2. patch as instructed in the Debian BTS
  3. pbuilder-satisfydepends, debuild, dpkg -i
  4. slmodemd -c ITALY --alsa hw:0,6
  5. echo ATDmymobilenumber > /dev/ttySL0 and my mobile phone rung
  6. efax-gtk

Believe it or not, at this point I managed to successfully send a test fax.

Background: the laptop's modem is actually a sound card, and is ashamed to admit that it can also work as a modem:

$ lspci
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation 82801H (ICH8 Family) HD Audio Controller (rev 03)

But the sound card actually has its own bus, which you can query with aplay -l:

$ aplay -l
**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: Intel [HDA Intel], device 0: ALC861VD Analog [ALC861VD Analog]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: Intel [HDA Intel], device 6: Si3054 Modem [Si3054 Modem]
  Subdevices: 0/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0

Then you learn that sl-modem-daemon can drive it both on i386 and on amd64, but you get period size 48 is not supported by playback (64) when trying to dial. But then you find the patch to get rid of that, and it works.

The modem was the last device in the new laptop that I had not yet attempted to use. I can now claim that every single piece of hardware on my ASUS F9E-2P119E laptop can be made to work with Debian. Oh, yes!

Step 2: fill in the form

Much to my surprise, evince allowed me to just click in the form fields and type text. Even checkboxes worked. "Save a copy", however, did not retain the field contents: I had to print to file to get another PDF with the fields filled in. Update: this could be a limitation of that specific PDF, see this thread on the Adobe forums (thanks to Tomas Weber).

However, evince did not allow me to import an image with my signature and paste it in the right place. Inkscape, however, successfully managed to import the PDF as an editable vector drawing that I could change at will. Again, that was impressive.

From there, it was just a matter of pasting the signature in the right place, save as PostScript, give it to efax-gtk and phone the bank to learn that, in fact, the fax was received and was perfectly readable.