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CHAT(8) System Manager’s Manual CHAT(8)


chat – Automated conversational script with a modem


chat [ options ] script


The chat program defines a conversational exchange between the computer
and the modem. Its primary purpose is to establish the connection
between the Point-to-Point Protocol Daemon (pppd) and the remote’s pppd


Read the chat script from the chat file. The use of this option
is mutually exclusive with the chat script parameters. The user
must have read access to the file. Multiple lines are permitted
in the file. Space or horizontal tab characters should be used
to separate the strings.

Set the timeout for the expected string to be received. If the
string is not received within the time limit then the reply
string is not sent. An alternate reply may be sent or the script
will fail if there is no alternate reply string. A failed script
will cause the chat program to terminate with a non-zero error
code. You can also use the TIMEOUT string in order to specify
the timeout.

Set the file for output of the report strings. If you use the
keyword REPORT, the resulting strings are written to this file.
If this option is not used and you still use REPORT keywords,
the stderr file is used for the report strings.

-e Start with the echo option turned on. Echoing may also be turned
on or off at specific points in the chat script by using the
ECHO keyword. When echoing is enabled, all output from the modem
is echoed to stderr.

-E Enables environment variable substitution within chat scripts
using the standard $xxx syntax.

-v Request that the chat script be executed in a verbose mode. The
chat program will then log the execution state of the chat
script as well as all text received from the modem and the out‐
put strings sent to the modem. The default is to log through
the SYSLOG; the logging method may be altered with the -S and -s

-V Request that the chat script be executed in a stderr verbose
mode. The chat program will then log all text received from the
modem and the output strings sent to the modem to the stderr
device. This device is usually the local console at the station
running the chat or pppd program.

-s Use stderr. All log messages from ‘-v’ and all error messages
will be sent to stderr.

-S Do not use the SYSLOG. By default, error messages are sent to
the SYSLOG. The use of -S will prevent both log messages from
‘-v’ and error messages from being sent to the SYSLOG.

-T Pass in an arbitrary string, usually a phone number, that will
be substituted for the \T substitution metacharacter in a send

-U Pass in a second string, usually a phone number, that will be
substituted for the \U substitution metacharacter in a send
string. This is useful when dialing an ISDN terminal adapter
that requires two numbers.

script If the script is not specified in a file with the -f option then
the script is included as parameters to the chat program.

The chat script defines the communications.

A script consists of one or more “expect-send” pairs of strings, sepa‐
rated by spaces, with an optional “subexpect-subsend” string pair, sep‐
arated by a dash as in the following example:

ogin:-BREAK-ogin: ppp ssword: hello2u2

This line indicates that the chat program should expect the string
“ogin:”. If it fails to receive a login prompt within the time interval
allotted, it is to send a break sequence to the remote and then expect
the string “ogin:”. If the first “ogin:” is received then the break
sequence is not generated.

Once it received the login prompt the chat program will send the string
ppp and then expect the prompt “ssword:”. When it receives the prompt
for the password, it will send the password hello2u2.

A carriage return is normally sent following the reply string. It is
not expected in the “expect” string unless it is specifically requested
by using the \r character sequence.

The expect sequence should contain only what is needed to identify the
string. Since it is normally stored on a disk file, it should not con‐
tain variable information. It is generally not acceptable to look for
time strings, network identification strings, or other variable pieces
of data as an expect string.

To help correct for characters which may be corrupted during the ini‐
tial sequence, look for the string “ogin:” rather than “login:”. It is
possible that the leading “l” character may be received in error and
you may never find the string even though it was sent by the system.
For this reason, scripts look for “ogin:” rather than “login:” and
“ssword:” rather than “password:”.

A very simple script might look like this:

ogin: ppp ssword: hello2u2

In other words, expect ….ogin:, send ppp, expect …ssword:, send

In actual practice, simple scripts are rare. At the vary least, you
should include sub-expect sequences should the original string not be
received. For example, consider the following script:

ogin:–ogin: ppp ssword: hello2u2

This would be a better script than the simple one used earlier. This
would look for the same login: prompt, however, if one was not
received, a single return sequence is sent and then it will look for
login: again. Should line noise obscure the first login prompt then
sending the empty line will usually generate a login prompt again.


Comments can be embedded in the chat script. A comment is a line which
starts with the # (hash) character in column 1. Such comment lines are
just ignored by the chat program. If a ‘#’ character is to be expected
as the first character of the expect sequence, you should quote the
expect string. If you want to wait for a prompt that starts with a #
(hash) character, you would have to write something like this:

# Now wait for the prompt and send logout string
‘# ‘ logout

If the string to send starts with an at sign (@), the rest of the
string is taken to be the name of a file to read to get the string to
send. If the last character of the data read is a newline, it is
removed. The file can be a named pipe (or fifo) instead of a regular
file. This provides a way for chat to communicate with another pro‐
gram, for example, a program to prompt the user and receive a password
typed in.

Many modems will report the status of the call as a string. These
strings may be CONNECTED or NO CARRIER or BUSY. It is often desirable
to terminate the script should the modem fail to connect to the remote.
The difficulty is that a script would not know exactly which modem
string it may receive. On one attempt, it may receive BUSY while the
next time it may receive NO CARRIER.

These “abort” strings may be specified in the script using the ABORT
sequence. It is written in the script as in the following example:


This sequence will expect nothing; and then send the string ATZ. The
expected response to this is the string OK. When it receives OK, the
string ATDT5551212 to dial the telephone. The expected string is CON‐
NECT. If the string CONNECT is received the remainder of the script is
executed. However, should the modem find a busy telephone, it will send
the string BUSY. This will cause the string to match the abort charac‐
ter sequence. The script will then fail because it found a match to the
abort string. If it received the string NO CARRIER, it will abort for
the same reason. Either string may be received. Either string will ter‐
minate the chat script.

This sequence allows for clearing previously set ABORT strings. ABORT
strings are kept in an array of a pre-determined size (at compilation
time); CLR_ABORT will reclaim the space for cleared entries so that new
strings can use that space.

The SAY directive allows the script to send strings to the user at the
terminal via standard error. If chat is being run by pppd, and pppd is
running as a daemon (detached from its controlling terminal), standard
error will normally be redirected to the file /etc/ppp/connect-errors.

SAY strings must be enclosed in single or double quotes. If carriage
return and line feed are needed in the string to be output, you must
explicitly add them to your string.

The SAY strings could be used to give progress messages in sections of
the script where you want to have ‘ECHO OFF’ but still let the user
know what is happening. An example is:

SAY “Dialling your ISP…\n”
” ATDT5551212
SAY “Waiting up to 2 minutes for connection … ”
SAY “Connected, now logging in …\n”
ogin: account
ssword: pass
$ \c
SAY “Logged in OK …\n” etc …

This sequence will only present the SAY strings to the user and all the
details of the script will remain hidden. For example, if the above
script works, the user will see:

Dialling your ISP…
Waiting up to 2 minutes for connection … Connected, now log‐
ging in …
Logged in OK …

A report string is similar to the ABORT string. The difference is that
the strings, and all characters to the next control character such as a
carriage return, are written to the report file.

The report strings may be used to isolate the transmission rate of the
modem’s connect string and return the value to the chat user. The anal‐
ysis of the report string logic occurs in conjunction with the other
string processing such as looking for the expect string. The use of the
same string for a report and abort sequence is probably not very use‐
ful, however, it is possible.

The report strings to no change the completion code of the program.

These “report” strings may be specified in the script using the REPORT
sequence. It is written in the script as in the following example:


This sequence will expect nothing; and then send the string ATDT5551212
to dial the telephone. The expected string is CONNECT. If the string
CONNECT is received the remainder of the script is executed. In addi‐
tion the program will write to the expect-file the string “CONNECT”
plus any characters which follow it such as the connection rate.

This sequence allows for clearing previously set REPORT strings.
REPORT strings are kept in an array of a pre-determined size (at compi‐
lation time); CLR_REPORT will reclaim the space for cleared entries so
that new strings can use that space.

The echo options controls whether the output from the modem is echoed
to stderr. This option may be set with the -e option, but it can also
be controlled by the ECHO keyword. The “expect-send” pair ECHO ON
enables echoing, and ECHO OFF disables it. With this keyword you can
select which parts of the conversation should be visible. For instance,
with the following script:

OK\r\n ATD1234567
\r\n \c
ogin: account

all output resulting from modem configuration and dialing is not visi‐
ble, but starting with the CONNECT (or BUSY) message, everything will
be echoed.

The HANGUP options control whether a modem hangup should be considered
as an error or not. This option is useful in scripts for dialling sys‐
tems which will hang up and call your system back. The HANGUP options
can be ON or OFF.
When HANGUP is set OFF and the modem hangs up (e.g., after the first
stage of logging in to a callback system), chat will continue running
the script (e.g., waiting for the incoming call and second stage login
prompt). As soon as the incoming call is connected, you should use the
HANGUP ON directive to reinstall normal hang up signal behavior. Here
is an (simple) example script:

OK\r\n ATD1234567
\r\n \c
‘Callback login:’ call_back_ID
ABORT “Bad Login”
‘Callback Password:’ Call_back_password
ogin:–BREAK–ogin: real_account
etc …

The initial timeout value is 45 seconds. This may be changed using the
-t parameter. You can also specify “TIMEOUT 0″.

To change the timeout value for the next expect string, the following
example may be used:

assword: hello2u2

This will change the timeout to 10 seconds when it expects the login:
prompt. The timeout is then changed to 5 seconds when it looks for the
password prompt.

The timeout, once changed, remains in effect until it is changed again.

The special reply string of EOT indicates that the chat program should
send an EOT character to the remote. This is normally the End-of-file
character sequence. A return character is not sent following the EOT.
The EOT sequence may be embedded into the send string using the
sequence ^D.

The special reply string of BREAK will cause a break condition to be
sent. The break is a special signal on the transmitter. The normal pro‐
cessing on the receiver is to change the transmission rate. It may be
used to cycle through the available transmission rates on the remote
until you are able to receive a valid login prompt. The break sequence
may be embedded into the send string using the \K sequence.

The expect and reply strings may contain escape sequences. All of the
sequences are legal in the reply string. Many are legal in the expect.
Those which are not valid in the expect sequence are so indicated.

” Expects or sends a null string. If you send a null string then
it will still send the return character. This sequence may
either be a pair of apostrophe or quote characters.

\b represents a backspace character.

\c Suppresses the newline at the end of the reply string. This is
the only method to send a string without a trailing return char‐
acter. It must be at the end of the send string. For example,
the sequence hello\c will simply send the characters h, e, l, l,
o. (not valid in expect.)

\d Delay for one second. The program uses sleep which will delay
to a maximum of one second. (not valid in expect.)

\K Insert a BREAK (not valid in expect.)

\n Send a newline or linefeed character.

\N Send a null character. The same sequence may be represented by
\0. (not valid in expect.)

\p Pause for a fraction of a second. The delay is 1/10th of a sec‐
ond. (not valid in expect.)

\q Suppress writing the string to the SYSLOG file. The string
?????? is written to the log in its place. (not valid in

\r Send or expect a carriage return.

\s Represents a space character in the string. This may be used
when it is not desirable to quote the strings which contains
spaces. The sequence ‘HI TIM’ and HI\sTIM are the same.

\t Send or expect a tab character.

\T Send the phone number string as specified with the -T option
(not valid in expect.)

\U Send the phone number 2 string as specified with the -U option
(not valid in expect.)

\\ Send or expect a backslash character.

\ddd Collapse the octal digits (ddd) into a single ASCII character
and send that character. (some characters are not valid in

^C Substitute the sequence with the control character represented
by C. For example, the character DC1 (17) is shown as ^Q.
(some characters are not valid in expect.)

Environment variables are available within chat scripts, if the -E
option was specified in the command line. The metacharacter $ is used
to introduce the name of the environment variable to substitute. If the
substitution fails, because the requested environment variable is not
set, nothing is replaced for the variable.

The chat program will terminate with the following completion codes.

0 The normal termination of the program. This indicates that the
script was executed without error to the normal conclusion.

1 One or more of the parameters are invalid or an expect string
was too large for the internal buffers. This indicates that the
program as not properly executed.

2 An error occurred during the execution of the program. This may
be due to a read or write operation failing for some reason or
chat receiving a signal such as SIGINT.

3 A timeout event occurred when there was an expect string without
having a “-subsend” string. This may mean that you did not pro‐
gram the script correctly for the condition or that some unex‐
pected event has occurred and the expected string could not be

4 The first string marked as an ABORT condition occurred.

5 The second string marked as an ABORT condition occurred.

6 The third string marked as an ABORT condition occurred.

7 The fourth string marked as an ABORT condition occurred.

… The other termination codes are also strings marked as an ABORT

Using the termination code, it is possible to determine which event
terminated the script. It is possible to decide if the string “BUSY”
was received from the modem as opposed to “NO DIAL TONE”. While the
first event may be retried, the second will probably have little chance
of succeeding during a retry.


Additional information about chat scripts may be found with UUCP docu‐
mentation. The chat script was taken from the ideas proposed by the
scripts used by the uucico program.

uucico, uucp


The chat program is in public domain. This is not the GNU public
license. If it breaks then you get to keep both pieces.

Chat Version 1.22 22 May 1999 CHAT(8)

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