Reporter's Notebook

FRAMINGHAM (01/28/2000) - ComNet 2000 was dominated by the weather . . . if the snow wasn't falling on your head or you weren't butt-first down in a snow bank, then it dominated all forms of conversation throughout the convention center.

Aside from the havoc the blizzard wreaked on the show, the storm provided us with these items:

From all accounts there was a pretty good snowball fight in front of the Convention Center on Tuesday night around midnight. We couldn't confirm whether the battle involved Microsoft Corp. employees bombarding government lawyers.

The snow caused many local watering holes to close early - much to the chagrin of certain showgoers.

Anyone who wanted to venture across town in a cab during the height of the storm had another gripe besides the inconvenience of the weather: Taxi drivers were charging double the regular fare for serving hazardous duty. Their inexperience driving in snow as well as D.C.'s minimalist street-clearing efforts, made for wild rides.

The snow storm updates showing on CNN kiosks sprinkled throughout the convention center were way more crowded than many of the booths on the show floor.

Lucent couldn't keep up with demand for its most popular offering at the show:

No, not the latest in switch technology but rather a gray fleece pullover that looked mighty warm to folks venturing outside onto the wind-swept streets.

The hands-down best show within the show belonged to Alcatel - though a magician from Alteon was highly popular as well. (In fact, a little cat fight between the two firms occurred Tuesday afternoon. That resulted in Alteon being forced to move its magic show inside the company's booth - largely because its crowds were infringing on Alcatel's, or so the story goes). Pettiness aside, show featured dance and physical performances most folks only dream of.

Back at the Alteon booth, the magician was more than he appeared - in fact he was an Alteon stockholder, or so he claimed. Joel "The ultimate infotainer" Bauer said he was trained in cognitive dissonance and slight-of-mind techniques and had a Ph.D. in psychology. No word on whether any of that translated into new sales for Alteon.

Presidential candidates aren't the only ones ignoring campaign finance reform; Cisco Systems Inc. is, too. The company slipped a phony dollar bill under the hotel room door of each ComNet attendee at the local Grand Hyatt and Ramaad Renaissance soliciting votes in the Best New Product election. Each bill had a note written on it: "Be sure to vote for Cisco Systems." A dollar isn't much to pay for a vote to begin with, but these weren't even real dollar bills. Then Cisco really hit below the belt, or actually right at it: The company passed out Nestle candy bars with "Vote for Cisco" solicitations written on the wrappers.

If there's anything reporters like better than free food, it's a live demonstration that could fail or not work at any given moment. TollBridge delivered, at least particularly. TollBridge supplied the press room at ComNet 2000 with telephones that relied on the company's voice-over-DSL technology.

The phones worked just fine - eventually. Wednesday Bell Atlantic finally hooked up the T-1 line needed to connect the phones to the public phone network. TollBridge covered its bases through - it had free food too.

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