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After calculating his New Year budget, Bill Pannifer checks out cheap flights and finds tips on one-armed bandits
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Cheap Flights


A convincing alternative to poring over the travel ads in listings magazines, this well-organised UK site displays budget fares and contacts for hundreds of holiday destinations. The service, itself without travel agency connections, gives details of cost and departure airports for trips both predictable and obscure (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, pounds 582) and offers some useful general advice as well as imaginatively selected tourist information links for each country. A feedback page allows customers to complain of shady practices, including "bait and switch" - unrealistic come-on fares that are never available in practice. Coverage is not entirely comprehensive - Easyjet's walk-on flights out of Luton are not included, for instance, though the company itself is listed - but this is probably the most objective and thorough of such pages on the Net.

The UK Fruit Machine Exchange


Those passed over by the National Lottery might want to pit their wits against that more traditional foe, the one-armed bandit. This site, and its linked relatives, is produced by and aimed at dedicated fruit machine players: not hopeless Vegas-style addicts, but the sort who stand around watching surreptitiously until some other unsuspecting punter has primed the machine enough for a win. There are minutely observed details of pay- out sequences, and hopeful advice on manipulating holds and nudges. But cash is involved, after all, and the camaraderie is qualified; the more hardcore tips seem to be supplied privately, very much on a reciprocal basis. Alternatively, newcomers can buy a home-produced book on the subject for pounds 45. The idiosyncrasies of particular machines are plotted - Casablanca, Wall Street and Make A Million seem to be targets of choice - with emphasis on club-installed units with more lucrative jackpots. One obsessive claims to have made a living for several years by playing the machines on cross- channel ferries.

The Protest of 96


This university-based account of events in Belgrade allows well-wishers the chance to support the struggle against the Milosevic regime, finally forced to concede electoral defeat as a result of the protests chronicled here.

The site's almost incongruously hip design frames reports of demos, violence and hospitalisations, while still finding time to wish everyone a Happy New Year. A link to the local Beta news service offers daily updates, and a message board displays a complex range of democratic and nationalistic points of view from the Serbian community worldwide.

The Interactive Frog Dissection


An educational rite of passage of dubious value is here relocated to cyberspace, to the relief of middle school biology students everywhere, though there's still a queasily Cronenbergian feel to the colour graphics and Quicktime movie demonstrations. The luckless amphibian is pinioned and disassembled in stages, which the pupil is then invited to retrace, using the cursor to pinpoint the correct points of entry for scissors, forceps or scalpel. Excellently designed, implacably pedagogic, and you'll never order Cuisses de grenouille again.

The Interactive Ego Booster


Cheaper and simpler than therapy, this site opens with a confused-looking chap about to pull the trigger. Press Start and upbeat messages are generated at 10-second intervals. Remember: You are very special! You are the best! No one can touch you! You have unsurpassed greatness! If after a while you find yourself questioning the sincerity of it all, beware: the barrage of reinforcement can be stopped only by pressing an icon of a loaded pistol, and returning to end-it-all moden