Replying to my own posts again
; I think that I remedied this by booting to a failsafe command line (this is not required). I did this so that I could just be looking at a console after booting linux. My default run-level logs me to a user KDE desktop. I then typed "su" and entered my password at the ensuing prompt to gain root console privileges.
I then typed "linuxconf" at the command line and looked at the "DOS" style menu of things to do. On the very top is a Network/Hosts (I am going to be localhost-default) tab and I hit enter and took a long time reading the various way stations and available help screens associated with the options. It is actually pretty straightforward and in common language (and also written some time ago when the networking was relatively new). I won't go into detail here because there is more than I could accurately relay. What I will describe is how to navigate.
Basically you use the enter key to select, the space bar to toggle on and off selections and the tab bar to move from option to option in a loop. And the up-down arrow keys work in some contexts I think. The choices for any given option are basicallyl Accept Cancel. There is a "Dismiss" bar at each section which returns you to the next previous option and you can follow this all the way out to where there is a Quit tab which will quit and return to the command line for a "shutdown -r now" to see if you did anything good or whether the world (Linux) is going to end. (or hang)
What I confirmed was my suspicion that I did not really need the ethernet setup active and there was a place where I could unselect it from being enabled by linux. I did this and backed out and now I am booting without loading the Ethernet and having it require an IP number. This would be desirable really only if I had a LAN to which I needed to communicate. So it is just a waste of time to activate it since like many desktop users, all I want to do is connect to the web as a standalone machine.
Further, the KPPP tool is pretty nifty for setting up the connection via my ISA card hardware modem. Use the expert (manual non Wizard). Since my IP assigns me a dynamic IP number and provides the remote address as well by communicating with my modem, every thing was copacetic (okey dokey). The USROBOTICS card has stored settings and I knew that it worked because Windows98SE loaded this puppy no problem (I set the serial port COM3 or STTY2 (linux) by hand as well as the IRQ 4. There is a setting for plug and play and I think Windows would have handled that as well.
Linux can be a problem if the BIOS configures the actual physical serial ports that a machine may have or if your linux system doesn't have it straight about which port is which and you complicate matters by showing it another serial port that may have the same settings as one the BIOS told linux about. So all I will say here is let us assume that your kernel configured things right. Also linux could probably do a plug and play setup as well. So now getting back to KPPP.
I used all the tabs that I could and tried to be careful. The Query Modem option in the Modem tab really took care of everything by what looked like an initialization process. If it tells you "Ready", then good chance it is going to dial and get its numbers in order and connect. I really am impressed with KPPP on the KDE Mandrake 9.1.
The problem is wading through all the volumes of information to figure out the simple set up option
Any way, Linux connects and the ISA modem runs much faster on Linux than it does on Windows and I am happy.
Let me also mention that the used modem cost me $15.00 which included the shipping on e-bay. It cost $139.00 brand new in 1996-7 with 2 big beautiful Texas Instruments chips on it and buffers and does not rely on the CPU to do all the switching plus it is inside my box and doesn't have all the spaghetti hanging out the back.
KPPP also arranged to turn off the squeeling sound and dialtone and everything is silent (The modem also has a fairly large hardware speaker on it which made this maddening--also Windows still makes noise) When you are connected there is a little virtual "led" display placed in the system tray for those (me) who like flashing lights--green and red-- telling you when outgoing an incoming traffic is occuring. Neat.
So there you have it. Ethernet is not necessary for a standalone machine; KPPP will do you.