North Korea's Photoshop skills, IRS spoofs Star Trek: This week in off-beat tech stories

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 04: Chimpanzee (L) and a gibbon skeletons are displayed at The Grant Museum of Zoology on September 4, 2012 in London, England. Containing 67,000 specimens, the Grant Museum of Zoology is the only one of it's kind in London. Started as a teaching collection in 1828 the collection displays only about 5% of all the specimens it holds. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) Peter Macdiarmid

This week was dominated by mostly mobile news: BlackBerry's life support machine finally kicked back into action, T-Mobile announced it would start selling the iPhone and redefined the traditional cell phone contract and rumors began to swirl after the media received invitations to see what many believe could be a Facebook phone.

But as usual, there have been a spattering of off-beat tech stories making the rounds; from gaming addicts, a Craigslist thief and the sci-fi spoof that dipped into the taxpayer's pocket.

Victim catches camera thief after Craigslist stake-out

If, just if, you're shadily selling a stolen gadget on the Web, think again.

Photographer Jeff Hu had his camera stolen following a St. Patrick's Day house party. After previously suffering a nasty case of bike plundering he learned that thieves use Craigslist to pilfer off their stolen wares. He checked the site in his neighborhood, only to find a listing for his trusty camera, recognizing the camera by various scratch marks.

After emailing the hapless Web savvy thief, who then replied leaving his own email address in Hu's inbox, he took to searching Facebook, according to NBC News. Like a scene out of "CSI: San Francisco," he recognized the person from the party and got in touch with the local police department who sent two of San Francisco's plain clothed finest to retrieve the stolen device.

The thief was cuffed and Hu and his camera were reunited.

North Korea adds Photoshop skills to its military resume

Amid escalating tensions in the Korean Peninsula with a smidgen of possibility that military action may in the coming weeks, it might not be wise to doctor images to inflate the size of your arsenal. But North Korea did, according to The Atlantic.

When the AFP news agency published a photo from North Korea's own state news agency of a number of hovercraft launching a military beach assault exercise in recent days, AFP was forced to launch its own "kill distribution" order on the image, which prevents other media organizations from using the image. AFP cited "excessive digital alteration," which is geek-talk for using Photoshop on an image to make it look different from before.

AFP photo editor Eric Baradat told the National Post that a quick examination can often determine whether or not a picture is fake, but the rogue state "tends to be better with Photoshop recently."

IRS staff spark anger in Star Trek "training" video spoof

"To boldly go where nobody has gone before." And so did the IRS, which apologized this week after spending $60,000 of the public's money on a video that vaguely resembled a poor Star Trek parody.

CBS News filed a Freedom of Information request asking for the video after the taxman refused to turn over the spoof to the congressional committee that oversees tax-related issues.

The video was intended to train the government department's staff, but the congressional committee found that it contained very little informative material at all.

William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the hit television sci-fi show, said on Twitter that he was "appalled" with the IRS for spending so much public money on the spoof.

Chinese gaming addict spends six years in Internet cafe

After Li Meng graduated from university, he spent every day in an Internet cafe playing computer games, only leaving to buy food and take the occasional bath.

The man, who is described as being "part of the furniture" by the cafe's owner, keeps to himself in a corner and plays incessantly for hours upon end. First reported by the Beijing Times (via the Xinhua news agency) he has little communication with the outside world. When reporters went to speak to him, he uttered only a few words, without taking his unfaltering gaze off his computer screen.

It highlights a growing problem with hardcore gaming addicts in some Asian countries. In 2010, Wired examined a Chinese camp designed to help children combat their Internet addictions.

Google wants "googling" stamped out, unless you mean it

The search giant, whose name became a verb some years ago, doesn't want you to use the term unless you're using its own search engine. While it's commonplace to use Google to search something, "googling" tends to refer to searching for something using any search engine. But with the rise of some rival search engines, notably Microsoft's Bing, the search giant wants to keep use of the term under control.

Google clashed with Swedish authorities this week, reports the Associated Press, after the country's language watchdog accused the search giant of "trying to control the Swedish language." The dispute centers on the slang-term "ungoogleable" -- or "ogooglebar" in Swedish -- a word that means something cannot be found on the Web.

The term was entered into Sweden's dictionaries in 2012, but Google protested and asked that the definition was changed to only refer to the searching of its own service. Instead of modifying the term as Google asked, the displeased language council simply removed the word from the dictionary.

  • Zack Whittaker On Twitter»

    Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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