25/05/2001 One of the better aspects of geekhood, however, is an unquenchable faith in the future. I can think of no other reason for Godfather of the Internet Vint Cerf to spend so much time thinking about how to extend the Internet across interplanetary distances. He and some chums have come up with plans to keep data flowing freely between nodes separated by hours of delay, over slow and noisy channels and with interrupted connections -- all things that happen when you put a small spacecraft out to poke around the solar system. The first test of the proposed IPN -InterPlaNetary internet -- will come in 2003, when the appropriate protocols are flown on board the Mars Exploration Rovers missions. These are much larger versions of the Pathfinder rover of four years ago: eventually, it's thought that gateways direct to exploration systems like these will let ordinary earthbound spods like you and I get direct experience of distant planets. And who knows -- if Arthur Clarke and Kubrick had foreseen that, HAL could have been remotely debugged and a new kernel uploaded well before all that nastiness with the pod bay doors. Let's hope the aliens like Linux.