Reading about Silicon Valley online is not hard at all; doing so without spending every waking hour in front of a keyboard is hard.

Start with the San Jose Mercury News (http://www.sjmercury.com), one of the first newspapers to have any online presence at all. Showing an awareness of the value of "branding," the paper has consolidated its tech coverage at a subsidiary Web site, http://www.siliconvalley.com; there you can track upcoming IPOs, read about the latest product launches and see who bought whom last week. More revealing, though, is the paper's real-estate section, which makes plain just how pyschotic the market has become out there: One two-bedroom cottage in Palo Alto is listed at $469,000.

Thing is, plenty of people out there can afford lodging of this stature. To see where that money's coming from, click over to the surprisingly entertaining magazine Upside (http://www.upside.com). The site offers daily updates on business developments, plus witty, slightly caustic commentary. What do you expect from a magazine that features a column called "Down the Toilet"?

News.com (http://www.news.com), run by San Francisco-based c/net, lacks Upside's bite but makes up for it in convenience and timeliness. It's one of the more efficient reads out there. Wired News (http://www.wired.com/news), an offshoot of Wired magazine, plows some of the same ground, but with more coverage of cultural, social and political issues. And Slashdot (http://slashdot.org) offers a sometimes fascinating, sometimes puzzling, always quirky mix of reports and comments from Internet users and the site's moderators on topics ranging from the Linux operating system to the next Star Wars movie.