Fancy a weekend project? In a rare moment of unforced sanity, the Radiocommunications Agency -- the bods who fearlessly guard the UK airwaves on behalf of us all -- have decided that it's legal to connect those tiddly little PMR446 walkie-talkies to the Internet. This means you can wander into your local Dixons, pick up a pair of radios for thirty quid or so, hook one up to your computer and use the other as a sort of cordless phone. You need to run some voice-over-the-Net software on your computer and to have someone elsewhere in the world to talk to, but all this is easily arranged. Doubtless, you might even be able to think of something useful to do with the technology. The real fun, if you're so inclined, is to arrange a link with someone who's also got a radio connected to their computer. Then, anyone within range of their PC can talk to anyone within range of yours -- and those little radios can manage about a mile in good conditions. If you've both got broadband or unmetered dial-up access -- this is a low bandwidth business -- then you've got the bare bones of a basic global two-way radio system with no time charges. It all came about because of those darned radio amateurs, who have long been the first to develop interesting, non-commercial wireless fun. There are already networks of ham repeaters hooked up to the Internet, so you can send a low-power local signal in London and it appears on the airwaves simultaneously in Sweden, Argentina, Las Vegas and Nottingham. I tried last night -- I'm G6HVY, but don't tell anyone -- and it works a treat. A bunch of non-licensed walkie-talkie owners thought "that's fun, we can do that", and promptly did. This provoked a very snotty complaint from one of the hams to the RA, saying "we have to get all sorts of authorisation for this, why should they just get away with it?" (you get a lot of this sort of thing with radio hams: then they complain that nobody wants to talk to them. Go figure.). The RA sent back a world-weary reply to the effect that "there's nothing wrong with this", and local access points have started to appear ever since. You can find out more on www.446user.co.uk, but be warned: the site's not very cogently set out, it says things like "you need to register with us for a callsign" when you need to do no such thing, and it's rather obtuse on some details. Nonetheless, it's a good starting point, there's a discussion forum, and it has the makings of a decent resource. Click here to see more of Rupert's diaries.