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False Alarms

Post Haste

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been working on a plan to deliver electronic postage (called indicium) over the Internet, and it looks like the technology is close at hand.

The latest news: Last August, the USPS gave the nod to a California company called StampMaster ( to begin test-marketing a new Net-postage delivery service. The company is currently testing a software product that will print bar-coded postage stamps right at your desk, for a fraction of the cost of a postage meter.

To use the software, which StampMaster will offer for free from its Web site, you select the amount of postage needed and hit the Print button; the software then communicates with StampMaster's server. The server, which keeps track of how much money is on your USPS account, approves the purchase and sends a bar-coded indicium back to your computer. Then, presto: The indicium is automatically printed on your envelope.

StampMaster is "hoping for a national launch at the end of March," says company co-founder Jim McDermott. "We think it's going to be big."

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