Mars shrouded in a Web of intrigue

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Mars sites: Since the news that scientists may have found evidence of life on a meteorite from Mars, the Red Planet's Websites have been swamped. It took me more than half an hour to get through to Nasa's Mars Exploration Program, based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (http://www.jpl. nasa.gov/mars). But it was worth the effort. It links you to all its Mars programs, such as Global Surveyor and Pathfinder, and the 1998 Russian project. But the most fascinating JPL-run site is the Mars Meteorites Home Page (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/snc/). Out of 20,000 meteorites that have landed on Earth, just 12 have come from Mars, and it gives a detailed history of each, including ALH 84001, the one that is the focus of the current excitement. The scientific paper that caused all the fuss is now on the Web as well, on the US journal Science's pages (http://www.aaas.org/science/mars/924/924).

New Scientist magazine's Planet Science site (http://www.newscientist.com) has published a "Life on Mars" special. Finally, there is an audio history of Nasa's Mars explorations up to 1994, entitled "Together to Mars", in the Nasa archives of the Internet Multicasting Service (http://town.hall.org/Archives/radio/IMS/NASA/).

Year 2000 site: Not that much time left for this one, if the creators of the Year 2000 Millennium Bug service (http://www. year2000.co.uk/year2000.htm) are to be believed. Anyone using computers to plan ahead should address the issue now, they say, since some computers will not otherwise be able to cope with the turn of the century. The site suggests ways of tackling the problem and also has links to Millennium Bug conferences.

Globetrotters' site: Are you coming down with wanderlust? Globetrotting (http://www. globetrotting.co.uk/) is aimed at people who want to get round the world on a shoestring. It is still finding its feet, but is an attractively laid out site, with a useful section on working abroad, as well as suggestions for travel deals. Each month they focus on one popular backpacker destination, currently Thailand.

Rowers' site: Inspired by the gold-medal success of Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent in Atlanta? Have a look at the Rowing Service (http://users.ox.ac.uk/ quarrell/). Practising rowers should also stick their oar in. There are links to rowing clubs across the country and sections on coaching, fitness, etc. Plus a calendar of regattas and head races across the UK. The Rowing Service also runs an Internet Erg Challenge on the Concept II Ergometer, a rowing machine that is supposed to be for training, but is actually a torture rack. Some nutters like to race on these devices and you compete in the challenge by entering your score on-line. But how do they stop cheats?

House-hunters' site: The Web seems inherently suited to house-hunting. Yet there is still only a handful of property agents on the Web, and most seem to focus on homes for the super-rich, or the London area. So when I heard about HouseWeb (http:// www.houseweb.co.uk/), calling itself as "the ultimate guide to buying and selling your house", I thought it might fill this gap.

Not yet. There is not a single link to an estate agent on its pages. Most of HouseWeb's pages are devoted to questions such as mortgage types, moving house and reading market conditions. Sounds useful enough, but a lot of the advice is so obvious it leaves you gasping. To be fair, the service is still relatively new and is planning to have estate agents on-line soon, as well as solicitors and removal firms. But why didn't they have this at the beginning?

Net review site: Your Personal Network (http://www.ypn.com) serves as an ever-watchful Internet critic, reviewing sites and services on the Web, in newsgroups, IRC channels, mailing lists and bulletin board systems. They claim to have constantly updated reviews of over 50,000 sites. You can browse through over 600 customised subject areas, or simply do an on-line search. The service's US bias will sometimes be frustrating for non-Americans, but it still has a lot of useful sites in its files.

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