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SHOWING OFF THE NET

The Buffalo Computer & Business Show that started Wednesday doesn't have a theme, but the unofficial one is evident.

The two-day show at the Buffalo Convention Center, with an expected 10,000 visitors coming to see 104 exhibits, revolves around the Internet -- getting on it, making money from it, selling your stuff through it, or just keeping it from putting a crick in your neck.

"This event has evolved from what had been about hardware and computers to networking -- not just the Internet . . . and how to incorporate them in business," says show manager Melanie Colley of Real Magic Media Inc.

Adelphia Cable, which will let you test-drive its high-speed Internet service on one of 15 computers, is generating a lot of interest on the second-floor exhibit hall.

"Why should people at the office be the only ones to have high-speed connection to the Internet?" asks Amy Hayes Atkinson, Adelphia manager of public relations and community affairs. Cable can pour information into your home at a rate of 10 million bytes per second, or more than 100 times faster than a typical telephone modem, she says.

Click, bang; the Washington Post's usually balky World Wide Web page comes up almost instantly. Click, and bang again for CNN's site.

But detractors at competing Internet providers say the cable company achieves much of its speed by "caching," or storing popular Web pages on its own computers. An informal test shows that it takes Adelphia about as long to retrieve an obscure Web page as a phone modem would.

Adelphia is using the show to launch its cable Internet service, already available in Amherst,
throughout the region. However, non-Amherst customers still need a phone line and modem for information traveling "upstream," from the home to the Internet.

Those without any Internet access at all can still sell their stuff on it through a company named buffaloclassifieds.com, after its Web address.

"People can call and put in their ad over the phone," says Tim Gard, company owner. The service takes ads for real estate, help wanted, cars and other goods for free. The service, launched Jan. 1, pays its own bills by selling ads to businesses -- a car dealership might take out an ad in the used car classifieds, for example.

Many companies with a presence on the Web haven't found a way to make it pay -- a situation that LocalNet Corp. says it can help reverse. The Williamsville Internet service provider was teaching a seminar as part of the show, "Making Your Web Site Pay."

The key, says president Marc Silvestri, is giving away free information or service to draw visitors to the site and make it useful.

For example, an Amherst stock analysis company called VectorVest saw traffic on its site leap a hundredfold after it started allowing visitors to sample a stock analysis by typing in a ticker symbol.

Besides the exhibits, some employers are recruiting for technical positions at a first-floor job fair.

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