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New for tech-heads

The latest technology, as well as courses for computer users, are among the fare at COMTECH 2001.

Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2001

COMTECH 2001 will see at least one product debut when it opens Wednesday.

Roger Cox and partner Ken Sagen are hoping to score big at Juneau's annual computer education and trade show with their new company and product, called VidXstream.

The company's streaming-video program outclasses anything that's on the market now, Cox said. The program is like a miniature broadcast studio that doesn't need a super-fast modem to get a high quality, pixel-free live video. Products like it already exist, but they are either very expensive or need high-speed modems, Cox said.

"We put them to shame," Sagen said.

 

Vehicle for video: VidXstream, developed by Roger Cox and Ken Sagen, serves as a miniature broadcast studio that provides high quality, pixel-free live video. photo

MICHAEL PENN / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE

Not everyone at COMTECH will be interested in VidXstream. That's OK, because COMTECH, short for communications technology, is trying to appeal to a wider audience, not just tech-heads.

It's still not for the person who's never touched a computer or doesn't know how to send e-mail, said event organizer Joan Pardes. But parts of the event will appeal to people who don't know hypertext from gigabytes.

"The idea was to have something for everyone," Pardes said.

Sessions range from Using Technology for Home Schooling for the everyday user to Java Servlet Development for the professional. A few sessions such as Web Search Tools for Alaskans are aimed at both groups.

"In times past, we were concentrating on the higher levels of users," said Win Gruening, chairman of the Alaska Committee. The committee, originally set up to fight the capital move but now aimed at improving the capital, organized the event until it was transferred to the South East Regional Resource Center last year.

High-level users are a limited group, Gruening said. And if the show was to grow, so would the audience appeal. COMTECH has three functions, Gruening said. The first two are to educate people and improve electronic access to the state and the third is to attract people to Juneau in winter.

Comtech

What: An annual computer education and trade show.

When: 8:30 a.m. to

5 p.m. Wednesday,

8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

Where: Centennial Hall.

Cost: $35 for a single session to $295 for

a three-day pass.

Web Site: alaskacom-tech.com/sessions.shtml.

The event proved too much of a strain for the all-volunteer Alaska Committee and took time from other projects, he said.

"It got bigger than us," Gruening said. "(SERRC) can take it to the next level."

The three-day event attracts about 500 people, most from Juneau, some from Southeast and others from around the state. They pay from $35 for a single session to $295 for a three-day pass, not including the $15 cost of attending one of seven hands-on labs.

Vendors and volunteers will be stting up at Centennial Hall today to prepare for Wednesday's opening.

"There's still a lot of work to do," Pardes said. lot of that work will be done by the 50 or so volunteers who help stage COMTECH, she said. When the doors open, Pardes will turn into a host and troubleshooter for the many booths and speakers scheduled.

COMTECH includes a trade show with 47 booths. Vendors are a mix of local, Alaska and national companies including Great NetSpectations, Southeast Alaska Fiber Link Corp. and Microsoft. COMTECH is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. The trade show is closed Friday.

A complete schedule is available on the Web through a link posted on juneauempire.com.

Howard Charney, senior vice president for Cisco Systems, is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech Wednesday morning titled Obtaining Value from the Internet. Part of Charney's job is to help customers understand how the

Internet can be used to competitive advantage for Cisco's customers.

Another star attraction is Kelly Goto, creative director of Idea Integration. She helped design National Geographic's Web site and the Web sites of some Hollywood studios including Sony Pictures and MGM Studios.

The keynote address and two panel discussions are free and the trade show is $5.

For SERRC, staging COMTECH is a gamble. The group is hoping to break even or be slightly in the black, but won't know until several weeks after the event how much it cost and how well it did, said Sheryl Weinberg, SERRC associate director.

Weinberg said SERRC started without seed money and only had the records from past COMTECHs.

"It's basically a leap of faith," she said.

For Pardes, attracting speakers and national companies to the trade show was easier than she thought.

"It's a very efficient way to reach the (information technology) market," she said.

That is something VidXstream is counting on.

"It's kind of hard to explain it unless you see it," Sagen said. But once you see it, the program speaks for itself, he said.

Providing a picture up to 8 inches by 10 inches, the program could work for applications such as broadcasting church services or company speeches, he said.

Besides the program's live-feed picture, the Windows-based VidXstream can show a program such as Microsoft's Excel on another part of the screen so people can follow along with changes made on that document while someone is lecturing and explaining the changes. Another space is provided to send questions to the instructor.

"What we're after is the virtual classroom," VidXstream's Cox said.

Mike Hinman can be reached at mhinman@juneauempire.com.



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