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Vandals and phreakers plague MSN Internet park bench

Gates gets surprise call

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Bill Gates this week become the victim of pranksters at MSN's latest UK project, the cyber-park bench.

On Tuesday Neil Woodman and Dan Sanderson from Bury St Edmunds took a phone handset down to the town's public gardens, where the bench is located.

When the 17-year-olds plugged it into one of the phone sockets in the bench's arm, they discovered that - hey presto - they got free international calls, courtesy of MSN.

After a couple of local calls, the two scallywags decided to use the phone to call Microsoft boss Bill Gates and have a chat about the bench project.

Unfortunately, Gates' battalion of secretaries proved impenetrable, and the two opted instead to be good citizens and call up St Edmundsbury Council to tip them off about the long-distance line blunder.

"We thought: who's in charge of Microsoft? We might as well try to see how far we can get," Sanderson told The Register.

"Then we called the council because we don't like to see people getting ripped off," added Sanderson, who runs computer shop Originate Computing Direct in the town with Woodman.

MSN, which is footing the phone bill for the first three months of the bench's life, promptly got onto BT and the bench now has a local calls only system.

But this is not the only excitement the bench, designed as somewhere for surfers to plug their laptops into, has seen since its launch on Monday.

It has also attracted the interest of vandals - earlier this week they blocked one of the bench's modem sockets when the parky's back was turned.

According to St Edmundsbury Council, engineers were called in and quickly fixed the problem.

"Hopefully people will come down and use the bench for what it's designed for," said one Council representative today.

"It's a very well used and very public area - we have park patrols, and are asking members of the public who are near the bench to keep an eye on it." ®

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