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Hot on the Web

Catching up

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on October 6, 2006
(Issue 2440, Search Wars)

Every week, there are dozens – okay, probably more – of interesting developments on the Internet. We cover a couple.

So several times a year, we try to pla y a little catch-up by hitting a bunch of topics at once.

eBay Express

The dominant site for online auctions, eBay recently launched a new site, eBay Express. Not timed auctions, eBay Express is organized more along the lines of Find the category of what you're looking for, then browse their the different ones available. When you find it, buy it – no waiting day after day to see if you won (or overpaying with the Buy It Now option on eBay's auctions).

Of course, the regular eBay site still exists for those who prefer the thrill of the auction. But for those whose shopping habits are more utilitarian than tantalizing, eBay Express may work better.

E-mail to go

Ritlabs has announced release of The Bat! Voyager Pro. It's a 256 MB USB flash drive with Ritlabs' e-mail client, "The Bat," pre-installed. Designed for folks who travel a lot, the Voyager Pro allows you to download your e-mail from any Windows computer with a USB drive and Internet access – and because you download your e-mail to your flash drive, it's totally secure.

It's a nice alternative to Web-based mail clients, particularly for those who get voluminous e-mail each day. Suggested retail price is $79.

National Geographic gets a soundtrack

Long famed for its stunning photography and stellar writing, National Geographic magazine is now selling CDs of music of the many nations featured in its pages. Best of all: Every week there's a free MP3 download. Africa to Iran, China to South America, the featured download of the week is regularly a treat.

Hungry? recently added a grocery section to its offerings. No, there's no meat counter, produce or dairy – it's non-perishable only. But it's still a pretty broad selection – snacks, canned goods, cereals, baking supplies, cleansers, pet food. Still, hard to see who's going to shop here.

Hint: If really wants its grocery section to catch on, why not offer regional products for the homesick among us? Were to offer Skyline Chili from Cincinnati or Mike Sell's Potato Chips from Dayton, they'd have at least one ready customer in San Diego.

National Lampoon online

There was a time in the 1970s and '80s when National Lampoon was the funniest magazine in the United States .Maybe in the world. P.J. O'Rourke was on staff, and nothing was sacred. But the original staff grew up and moved on, and those who replaced them were never quite as funny. Still, the brand has value - and now is online for those looking for something twisted yet funny. Whether it works as well as the magazine's classic era remains to be seen.

Friendster updates

One of the first true competitors to MySpace (or maybe it even came before MySpace), has kind of been left behind. Recently the free networking service (it survives on advertising, like MySpace) added the ability to have your last name on your profile – the press release and blurbs on the site said this will make it easier for old friends to find you on Friendster.

Still, the site seems pretty slow, even with such an exciting feature ...

Bathroom reading

Okay, nobody wants to sit on the throne balancing a laptop on their knees. But Uncle John's "Bathroom Reader" series has a nice Web site for ordering more or additional copies of their many books meant for keeping on the back of the commode. There are literally dozens of titles in the Bathroom Reader series – including at least one of the books on CD! (No, we don't know why you'd want a bathroom reader on CD either ...)

Fighting fleas

I know that no responsible doctor would give out a prescription without seeing the patient first, but when it gets to veterinary medicine, it can get a big overdone (and thus expensive). Like for flea medicine. Does the vet really need to see your cat to whip out a presciprtion for Advantage? 1-800-Pet-Meds has the perfect toll-free phone number for bypassing this little bit of bureaucratic nonsense; their Web site is even easier to use.