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iMac modem trouble ISP based?

Apple suggests iMac users contact their ISPs if they're having trouble with the 56-kbps modem.

Apple Computer's new iMac just got its own site for technical support and information and is already using it to dispense advice on some minor glitches that have cropped up.

The site offers "how to" information on a variety of issues, as well as discussion boards for iMac customers.

It is not uncommon for new computers to have problems, and the iMac is no exception.

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Apple's gambit One issue raised by customers concerns the 56-kbps modem included with the iMac. Users posting messages in Apple's discussion boards have been reporting troubles connecting to their ISPs (Internet Service Providers). In some cases, users are getting prematurely disconnected or aren't connecting above 33.6 kbps.

Apple has evidently reached the conclusion that most of these problems are related to the ISPs used by customers and not the iMac's modem itself. The issue lies in most cases with ISPs that haven't upgraded from older proprietary 56-kbps modem standards to the new V.90 standard, Apple said. The company recently posted a statement which reads: "Any time a new modem standard is introduced there is a period of adjustment while various ISPs work to ensure that their servers are compatible with the new specification."

"If you are having difficulty connecting to a specific ISP, you may wish to contact them to ensure they are currently using V.90 compliant modems, or have plans to update to them in the near future," the site reads.

One reader noted that when using a different Mac with an external modem on the same phone cord and the same phone jack as the iMac he was able to achieve download speeds of 42 kbps, while the iMac didn't reliably connect at over 28.8 kbps. Both modems also use chipsets from the same manufacturer, casting some doubt about whether or not Apple may have some work left to do.

Some users say such matters are a fact of life for both iMac and PC customers.

"Lots of luck if you can [connect faster than 33.6] with any computer or any 56k modem. There is not nirvana out there in 56k land," said another reader in an email to CNET

Ironically enough, Apple only included the 56-kbps modem after a wave of concern was raised about the use of a slower 33.6-kbps modem. An Apple spokesperson said that Apple's technical support center had not received many calls on the issue.

Because the iMac design is a departure from the traditional Macintosh in many respects, it is therefore prone to some other quirks. The iMac, for instance, only comes with Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports limiting the number of peripheral devices, such as printers and scanners, that can directly connect to it, though adapters are available.

In addition to the modem connections, some customers are talking about some glitches they've encountered with Epson printers. Some users who have an Epson Stylus 600 hooked up to a USB port have reported printing problems such as blank gaps and random characters on a page.

Epson was unavailable for comment on the matter. An Apple spokesperson said they are looking into the issue.

One user noted that people can avoid the problem altogether by purchasing a printer with a network connector and hook it to the iMac's built-in ethernet network port instead of the USB port.