USB setup

I'm running Linux-Mandrake 6.0 (kernel 2.2.9), and have on-mainboard USB ports.  I also have a USB modem that I want to use.  I've set everything in the BIOS that I can find to standardize the ports to ttyS0 and ttyS1.

Can someone explain, in plain english (or as near as the process will allow), the procedure I will need to go through to make sure that a) my USB ports are working in Linux, and b) that my modem is correctly set up?

Thank you.
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USB is not supported in kernel 2.2

(well, in some cases mouse and keyboard works, but a modem is a total "forget it" for now)

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