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The Independent Culture


Now showing, and about time, too: the first cinema site in Europe to allow online booking. Oscar Deutsch's chain is basically providing a Web- based front end for the existing phone reservation system, so the booking fees are the same. But there's more, including an "electronic version of Barry Norman". This is not some sort of replicant, but a personalised film recommendation system (default setting, inevitably, Titanic), and the database can also be searched by actor, director and genre. There are the usual synopses and stills from individual movies and links to lengthier downloads of clips from the distributors' own pages. It can't be long before rival sites, such as that for the UCI chain (http://www.ucicinemas.co.uk/), catch up.



Research for this site included the services of Bobby, a useful sounding code-checking utility for assessing Web sites against "recognised standards of good programming practice". Presented with 70 pages supposedly created for disabled people, Bob gave high scores to only 12, so AbilityNet, a new site to help the disabled cope with computers, has taken his conclusions on board. There are plain text and large symbol options, and also lots of fascinating detail on adaptive technology - such as replacing the keyboard with foot switches or suck tubes, and the uses of voice recognition. The best such resource site, according to the survey, is that of the Yuri Rubinsky Insight foundation at http://www.yuri.org/webable/

Roath Village Web



These media-savvy primary school pupils have not only posted their class project online, but have issued a press release about it, too. The site describes changes in village life since the 19th century, as taking place in the parish of Roath, Cardiff. "Village elders" will offer their reminiscences in return for an education in the Ways Of The Web from their cyberliterate grandchildren. Behind it all is a Wales-based IT-in-Education group, backed by millennium funding. This work in progress may turn into a global village, but at present it is a rather deserted one, with most of the links still to be fleshed out.

Science a GoGo


"A motley collection of hacks and hackettes with a keen interest in science" have launched this e-zine, updated on a daily basis. The punchy and whimsical result is a sort of New Scientist Lite, but with more jokes, usually towards the dark end of the scientific spectrum: a Top Ten Killer Diseases table includes not only the Black Death and malaria but Girl Power. The idea is to make science coverage more accessible, and there's lots of serious background in the longer pieces on, for instance, measuring the speed of cognition or the interaction of cannabis with Aids drugs, not to mention a minatory account of the lethal effects of coffee. But irreverence is the order of the day. "Asteroids, schmasteroids," begins one apocalyptic article. Equally fascinating is the online toyshop, created, one assumes, on the principle that scientists never grow up, since many of the items aren't safe for kids. Also available: something called Sea Monkeys in Brine, and a fruit powered digital clock.



An entire planet all to ourselves? This 1,000-screen, multimedia-heavy official site is "another example of the modern, open Foreign Office", according to Robin Cook. Designed to promote the diversity of British achievement to the world at large, especially its younger inhabitants, the tone is usually unpatronising: lots about Oasis, Damien Hirst and the Dyson vaccuum cleaner, but also detailed information in a range of categories - art, sport, fashion, science etc - all arranged in an iris pattern reminiscent of the pre-credits sequence of a Bond movie. The whole nation encapsulated, from our government structures and the workings of our enterprise culture, to the role of London as "the world's gastronomic capital". The CD-Rom version goes out free to schools and companies worldwide.