Technology & Science

Internet bench has interesting first week

Internet bench getting lots of attention - some good, some troublesome - during its first week.

A "cyber-seat" installed in a public garden in England has had an interesting start. Its creators are working to smooth out some glitches as people start to surf in the great outdoors.

The bench was created by Microsoft's MSN service in partnership with the local council. The arms of the seat contain modem sockets that allow up to four people to log onto the Web simultaneously.

The online service is free during the three-month pilot period. But that's not all that's free.

Two teens discovered the bench could be used to make free international telephone calls. Neil Woodman and Dan Sanderson called the town council to warn them of the problem, and then tried to call Microsoft boss, Bill Gates.

The bench was also vandalised during its first days, with someone trying to block one of the modem plugs.

Engineers have since stopped the long distance calls, and the socket is said to be in working order.

The council has now established regular patrols to keep an eye on the bench, and the gardens will be locked at night to try to prevent any further incidents.

Surfing the great oudoors

Although outdoor surfing at a bench is a world first, going online in public isn't new.

Another English town already has a cyber-park where up to 20 users can wirelessly surf the Net free of charge. The service has been up and running six weeks and can be used by those with laptops or handheld palm devices.

The wireless approach has one advantage over fixed points like the bench in that radio links aren't as vulnerable to vandalism.