Lost in Cyberspace
Lights, Camera, Auction
© 1999 by H.B. Koplowitz

The online auction company eBay has opened its first regional Web site, "eBay LA" <www.ebay.com/la>. Specializing in Hollywood movie memorabilia, the site enables buyers and sellers of "Wild Wild West" movie posters and "Austin Powers" Dr. Evil C-watches to connect with each other. Anyone can bid in eBay LA auctions, which also traffic in Beanie Babies, collectibles and all the other stuff the main eBay site has. But eBay LA also has auctions of more local interest, like Ricky Martin tickets at the Los Angeles Staples Center, items a buyer might want to see before bidding on, like Richard Boone's 1961 Rolls-Royce, and those too big to ship, like pieces of the interior set used for the on-board scenes of James Cameron's "Titanic."

Auction fans will be able to learn the ins and outs of eBay's online trading bizarre offline with the August debut of "eBay Magazine" <www.krause.com> and two books, "The Official eBay Guide to Buying, Selling," and Collecting Just About Anything" and eBay for Dummies." "eBay Magazine" is geared toward collectors and is to feature trends in collecting, pop culture and the Internet, with news about collectibles, e-commerce, person-to-person trading, online entertainment and new technologies that affect online trading. The magazine will have tips on how to buy, sell, invest and collect online, and report on the collecting habits of celebrities.

The "Official eBay Guide" is the authorized eBay how-to book for beginner and veteran online traders. It includes an introduction by eBay founder and chairman Pierre Omidyar, who traces the company's humble beginnings from a suggestion by his wife that they create a Web site for her to indulge her passion for collecting PEZ dispensers, to the world's largest trading community with nearly 3.8 million registered users and 2.2 million items for sale in 1,600 categories. The book will be available in November for a suggested retail price of $13. "eBay For Dummies" has tips and tricks on selling techniques and placing winning bids. Authored by NBC News producer and eBay addict Roland Woerner, it will be out in August for a suggested retail price of $20.

One other tidbit for auction addicts:  The next version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser will have a feature that automatically notifies online bidders when they've been outbid so they can up their offer.

You don't have to be Bill Gates or live in Beverly Hills to have the home of the future. With ActiveHome you can program what happens inside and outside your abode when you come home, go to bed, get up or want to set a romantic mood. Made by X10 <www.x10.com>, which also makes universal remote control devices for RCA, Radio Shack and other electronics companies, ActiveHome uses existing home wiring to send signals to appliance-controlling gizmos that can operate lights, TVs, burglar alarms, garage doors, air conditioners, pretty much anything with a switch.

By interconnecting appliances, X10 products create "a 21st Century home environment today," said spokesperson Jeff Denenholz. From something as simple as turning on your coffee maker when your radio alarm clock comes on in the morning, to dimming the lights, turning on the music and igniting the gas fireplace with the push of a button, ActiveHome can make your home safer, more energy efficient and fun.

It may sound complicated, but X10's gadgets are simple and inexpensive. You plug the controllers into the wall and plug the lamps and appliances into the controllers. The controllers can be activated either manually with a remote control device or automatically by your computer. The X10 software works in the background and your computer doesn't even have to be on. The software can also record when you turn your lights on and off and then play it back to make it appear you are home when you're not.

The controllers sell for about $13 a module at Radio Shack, or you can buy kits that include several controllers, a control console and software. At its Web site, X10 sells a 12-component ActiveHome Deluxe Kit for $100. For about the same price, IBM sells a similar kit called Home Director Universal Starting Kit <www.pc.ibm.com/homedirector>. For considerably more money, $600, Honeywell <www.honeywell.com> sells a more elaborate system focusing on home security, with such features as lighting escape routes when your smoke alarm goes off.

X10's latest creation is the XCam, a super-small, color video camera that can be placed in a nursery, family room or, well, pretty much anywhere. Coupled with a sender and receiver, the inconspicuous minicam transmits live video images up to 100 feet without wires, directly to your TV or computer screen. The XCam Kit, which sells for $150, can also be used to record birthday parties and other events for future viewing, or spy on the nanny if you'd prefer.

X10 also makes a gadget called DVD Anywhere that transmits DVD movies from your DVD player or computer to any TV in your house. Included with the $88 DVD Anywhere Kit is a universal remote that lets you control your DVD, VCR, TV, lights and appliances with the same remote. DVD Anywhere also lets you watch broadcast or cable TV hooked up to a different TV, although your cable company may not like that.

copyright 1999 by H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.

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