NSA Succumbs to Government Shutdown
Today in international tech news: The NSA sends employees home as part of the government shutdown. Also: Iran's president tweets it up with Twitter's chairman; Apple patents the showy glass walkway from its Shanghai Apple Store; Toshiba wants in on UK nuclear power; and BlackBerry is in even worse shape than some thought.
Employees at the National Security Agency received a memo telling them that they, too, would not work because of the government shutdown taking place as Congress does whatever it is Congress is doing (or not doing) right now.
In the memo, penned by the NSA's associate director of human resources and sent to thousands of NSA staffers, employees are told that despite exceptions made for "activities required for national security," they would be furloughed.
U.S. spy agencies have furloughed up to 70 percent of staff, according to reports.
Iranian Prez Has Twitter Banter With Twitter Chairman
In yet another sign that Iran could be on its way to condoning Western social media, a Twitter account used by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani exchanged tweets with Jack Dorsey, the chairman of Twitter.
The interaction started when Dorsey tweeted at Rouhani, asking, "Are citizens of Iran able to read your tweets?"
Rouhani's account replied -- and displayed savvy over SMS speak -- by saying that Iranians would "comfortably b able 2 access info globally as is their right."
Hardly an official declaration, but perhaps worth noting -- especially because Iran's stance on social media could, just maybe, be shifting. In early September, members of Rouhani's cabinet were reportedly implored to open Facebook accounts. Then, a week later, Western social media sites like Facebook and Twitter were suddenly available in Iran, if only for one night.
Now, it's true that Iran denied the Facebook story, and it's also true that the social media sites were only available because of what officials called a filtering glitch; the block was quickly restored.
Still, while any one of these stories might mean nothing on its own, Rouhani seems to be taking the country in a less restrictive direction on social media. Rouhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was notoriously anti-social media, blocking all such sites after Iranians used the Web to protest his disputed 2009 election victory.
Iran's Foreign Minister and its Oil Minister each have active Facebook pages.
Toshiba Wants in on UK Nuke Power
The chief executive of Japanese Toshiba said that the company wants a majority stake in British nuclear consortium NuGen.
Toshiba believes it could secure orders for 29 new nuclear reactors by March 2018, CEO Hisao Tanaka said, adding that the Fukushima-inspired aversion to nuclear power was waning (although there was another radioactive leak reported at Fukushima on Thursday, so Tanaka may want to hold that thought).
Iberdrola SA, a Spanish utility, is currently looking to dump its 50 percent stake in NuGen. In order to get the majority stake it covets, Toshiba -- which is better known for its consumer electronics than its nuclear generators -- would have to buy Iberdrola's shares as well as those currently belong to NuGen shareholder GDF Suez.
Apple Patents Glass Cylinder
Apple secured a patent for the cylindrical glass entryway featured at its Shanghai store.
The patent covers the design, materials and method of construction. The cylinder is built with slabs of curved glass and is supported by glass beams. The structure calls for a special laminating process that affixes the metal joins to the glass.
The glass cylinder sitting atop the Shanghai Apple Story entryway descends into the store itself, granting passage via a spiral staircase.
BlackBerry in Worse Shape Than Reported
On Wednesday, BlackBerry said that its plan to nix 4,500 employees will cost the company US$400 million -- four times more than previously expected.
BlackBerry also reported that customers in former market strongholds were flipping to Android and that consumers are seeking devices with the largest number of apps -- and that ain't BlackBerry.