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Deactivation of Flash may have crippled Chinese railroad for a day [Updated]


Passengers pulling luggage ring a squat concrete terminal.
Enlarge / Dalian Railway Station.

In 2017, Adobe announced it would deactivate Flash at the end of 2020. Earlier this month, on January 12, Adobe carried through on its plans, deactivating Flash installations around the world. One result, according to Apple Daily, was chaos in a Chinese railroad in Liaoning province.

Officials at China Railway Shenyang use Flash-based software to plan each day’s railroad operations. As a result of the outage, Apple Daily says, “staffers were reportedly unable to view train operation diagrams, formulate train sequencing schedules, and arrange shunting plans.”

As a result, the railroad was unable to dispatch its trains, “leading to a complete shutdown of its railroads in Dalian, Liaoning province,” according to Apple Daily.

After a day of chaos, the railroad found a solution: it reverted to an older version of Flash without the self-deactivating code. The railroad installed it early on the morning of January 13, allowing operations to resume.

Officials gave an exciting blow-by-blow account of the incident in a post on the Chinese social media account QQ.

“After more than 20 hours of fighting, no one complained, and no one gave up,” they wrote (according to Google Translate). “Even if there is little hope, there is a motivation to move forward.”

The post attracted some mockery on the Chinese Internet, with observers pointing out railroad officials could have anticipated this problem and developed a non-Flash dispatching system months earlier. The post was taken down, but a copy is still available at archive.org.

Update 7:30pm EST: Reader Aube found this blog post¬†questioning whether the Flash problem affected train dispatching. It also says that the railroad reverted to an old version of Adobe Flash but not a pirated version. As a non-Chinese speaker, it’s hard for me to be sure if the Apple Daily story is accurate or not.



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