Arts and science

This week's recruits to the World Wide Web include New Scientist magazine, whose "Planet Science" site is at Another newcomer is the "Opera Factory", at, where you can book tickets or just read about current British productions.

Free, then fee

Stephen Palffy points out that just because you can download software on the Net for free, that doesn't mean you don't have to pay. "A lot of the software available this way is shareware, which may be downloaded to be tried and tested for free but for which decent, law-abiding citizens are expected to pay a (usually very reasonable) licence fee if they decide to keep and use it beyond evaluation," he notes.

Hidden error

The online magazine Computer Risks suggests that if you're using Microsoft's Excel, type or paste 1.40737488355328 into a cell. What does it read? 0.64. "If you perform arithmetic with this, it will act as if 0.64 had been entered, so it is not simply a display error," it notes. But when the number is used as part of a formula, the error is not apparent. The world awaits Microsoft's explanation.

High score

Virgin Interactive last week earned notoriety by promoting its latest war-based computer game, Command and Conquer, with mugshots of Stalin and Hitler with the headline "Previous Highest Scores". Meanwhile, it was also fined almost pounds 2,500 by Coventry magistrates' court under the Trades Description Act over misleading packaging on its computer game Doom II. Although Virgin did not write the game, it has legal responsibility for the content of the labels, which it does write. The company pleaded guilty to misleading buyers on six counts under Section 1 of the Act. A sticker on Doom II said it "includes three bonus episodes from Doom" - which itself only consisted of three "episodes". But the "bonuses" were only trailers for the main game.

OD of OJ

The OJ Simpson verdict was watched by roughly half of America, TV networks say, while AT&T notes that phone usage dropped substantially in the half hour before the verdict was announced. On the Net, CNN's home page on the World Wide Web got so clogged that latecomers couldn't log in even 10 minutes before the verdict. Twenty minutes after Simpson became a free man, the line still reported an overload.

The members of the newsgroup posted more than 1,000 new messages in the 24 hours before the decision. And less than a day later there was a new newsgroup - alt.oj.cast-the-movie - with suggestions such as "Marcia Clark: Susan Sarandon".