You'd think people could just stick their heads outside and look, but apparently that's not virtual enough for the digitally hip. Millions of Americans are piping live, local weather reports onto their computer screens using a Web-connected program called WeatherBug (www.weatherbug.com).
If you download this free Windows program and type in your Zip code, WeatherBug will show the current local temperature at the bottom of your screen, beside the time display on most Windows desktops.
Clicking on the temperature pops up a window showing a wind gauge, the next-day forecast, barometric pressure, rainfall and other conditions in your area. Live Web cameras are a click away, along with radar graphics and a seven-day forecast. Time-lapse views let you see the sunrise and sunset at such places as the Washington Monument. Alerts chirp if a weather warning is issued for your area.
While 12,000 users pay $19.95 a year for an ad-free view, most opt for the free version. It shows ads in a full-screen background image, with the weather report superimposed as a transparent layer on top.
This program is half Web, half traditional desktop software -- without a full-time Internet connection, it's of relatively little use. Developer AWS Convergence Technologies Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md., built its own weather network by installing automated monitoring stations at more than 5,000 places nationwide. This way, it can zap highly local updates every second, compared with the hourly reports available from the National Weather Service.
More than 7 million people visited the WeatherBug site in January, according to Jupiter Media Metrix.
Playboy Does EBay
It may not help Christie Hefner turn around her father's money-losing media empire, but Playboy Enterprises became the latest big-name marketer to open a storefront on eBay last week. After testing eBay's online auctions in December, Playboy said it will auction jewelry, clothing (yes, some worn by Playmates) and one-of-a-kind experiences such as tickets to Hugh Hefner's parties at the Playboy Mansion.
Don't look for Playboy's auctions to feature nude centerfolds, which would require cordoning them off in eBay's "mature audiences" category. Playboy spokesman Bill Farley said the store will feature general merchandise and is part of a "mainstreaming" of the brand.
The move reflects eBay's march into traditional retail. Well-known companies that are among eBay's 20,000 storefront operators include Sears, Kodak, Zales, TV Guide, Disney, Home Depot and KitchenAid. The shortcut to Playboy is www.stores.ebay.com/playboymarketplace.
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