Are you ready to leapfrog your Palm-flaunting pals? Ready for the ultimate in personal digital assistant coolness? Then head on over to eBay, because the new Compaq iPaq Pocket PC is so hot that you can't get one through normal distribution channels. You'll find it at the auction sites for as much as twice its list price of about $500. Techno-fetishists everywhere are glomming onto the iPaq because it's the first PDA that really does pack the punch of a PC — well, a two-year-old desktop machine, anyway.

The iPaq features an Intel 206MHz processor that will operate smaller versions of your old favorites, Microsoft Word and Excel, in a Windows-like environment. Add an optional expansion pack — which slips on and off the iPaq, no tools needed — and you can install a standard-size CDPD wireless PC card, allowing you to pick up e-mail wherever your cellphone coverage allows. (Psst: The Palm OS can't handle standard PC cards.)

The expansion pack also comes in standard PC card and LAN card configurations, so the iPaq will communicate directly with your PC or through a network. Compaq plans to release several different expansion packs to make the iPaq functional in even more varied environments.

Other cool features include a bright color screen that adjusts to the ambient light, an e-book application for sneaking a chapter of the latest Stephen King thriller, and a stereo out-line for listening to MP3 format files. The iPaq also comes with such utilitarian features as a USB port for connecting to your PC or printer. (Sorry, serial port connectors must be purchased separately.)

On top of all this, the iPaq is designed so people with regular fingers can use it — a human-sized navigator button moves a screen cursor, and there's a start button right on the front. To learn more, visit www.compaq.com.