Freewheel by Net

sites; Hitch a lift, contact Indian friends or stay home with a video and a curry. Andrew North points the way for travellers and couch potatoes
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Hitching Site: How often have you tried to hitch a lift and been passed continuously by suspicious drivers? However innocent you look, most people are too scared to pick you up, especially if you are a single man. Freewheelers have got round this with their registered lift agency and you can sign up for the service via their Web site (http://www.freewheelers.co.uk/freewheelers/). Say you want to travel from Edinburgh to London: Freewheelers will put you in touch with people going that way and you pay a fuel contribution of 3.5p per mile. For this journey, that works out at pounds 13.25, which would get you only as far south as Berwick-upon-Tweed on the train. Although they have targeted their service at students, anyone can register for Freewheelers. And as the organisation points out, if lift-sharing were more common, it would help to reduce traffic congestion. Their slogan is: "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem."

Indian Snail Mail Site: The more gung-ho advocates of the Internet confidently predicted that its ability to deliver messages anywhere in the world in seconds would mean the end of conventional postage systems, or "snail mail". So it is somewhat ironic to find an Internet service being used to generate snail mail. The Indian organisation XL Web (http://www.xlweb.com/new.htm) has set up a postal e-mail service, known as EasyLink, allowing anyone with relatives and friends on the subcontinent to stay in touch, even if they don't have an Internet connection. Once you have registered, you send an e-mail to XL Web with the relevant postal address included and they print it off the system, put it in an envelope and post it. Alternatively, you can ask to have it couriered or faxed. In addition, Internet providers such as Demon offer a fax by e-mail service. You send Demon an e-mail and they will fax it on.

Couch Potato's Site: If they can turn their square eyes away from the box for a moment, sofa surfers might like to know about the opening of the Video Superstore on the Web (http://ds.dial.pipex.com/town/parade/dg21/). It is a simple, uncluttered service, with no fancy graphics to distract you. It divides up its film catalogue by every category imaginable, and you click on one that interests you. When you've found your favourite epic, click on the title, punch in your details and the video will be posted to you. You can pay on-line by credit card or by posting a cheque. They organise credit accounts for regular customers, too.

Karting Site: Disappointing not to hear a high-pitched Vrrrrrm sound when I zoomed in to the UK Karting site (http://www.karting.co.uk/). After all, noise is the dominant feature of this sport. But go-kart fans should find plenty to keep them occupied on this busy site. There is a results service for events around the country, karting news, a diary of future meetings, contact lists and a noticeboard. And if your beloved lawnmower-powered machine goes missing, UK Karting offers a stolen equipment section.

Cartoon Sites: A lot of cartoonists have discovered the Web as a medium for promoting their work. Trouble is, much of it is pretty bad, with all sorts of no-hopers putting up their office-blotter doodles and tacking on a naff catchline. Which is a shame, because cartoons are well-suited to the short attention span of Web surfers. But hope may be at hand with the establishment of the Cartoon Arts Network (http://www.pavilion.co.uk/cartoonet/cartoon.htm), a mixed bag of links to Web galleries and cartoonists across Britain and the rest of Europe, as well as details on publishers and agencies. It is still early days, with no real crackers, but the site shows promise. I enjoyed some of the stuff in Cartoon County, although it was frustrating to find that many of the cartoonists had yet to place any examples of their work. The Fanny collection appeals to more esoteric tastes than mine, but have a look for yourself. If you fancy some Net-related cartoons, check in with Roger Penwill's Old Motherboard Tranquility Haven (http://www.netlink.co.uk/users/penwill/haven.html). The Cad Pad and the Health Club sections had a few good 'uns.

Vindaloo Site: If you are a dedicated madras-muncher and want to try your hand at making curries at home, it is time you had a look at Curry Direct (http://www.telesys.com/currydirect/). Through this site, you can get "all the ingredients you're ever likely to need to make a superb curry". Beginners can choose from 30 blended spice mixes, while experienced curry cooks can buy whole and ground spices. As well as poppadums, pickles and chutneys, basmati rice and unusual ingredients such as jaggery (palm sugar), they sell recipe books and utensils. They take orders by telephone, post or e-mail. But they don't provide the lagers.

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