Supportive of everything from browser games to live streaming, Adobe Flash wasn't the internet's favorite multimedia platform without reason. Even in its heyday, though, Flash wasn't universally loved; it had security holes, could be tough to optimize, and wouldn't play ball with all browsers, especially those on mobile devices. When HTML5 hit the scene, Flash began to fall out of favor, and in July 2017, Adobe announced it would cease support at the end of 2020, giving users three and half years to switch to new software. This message, however, didn't reach all corners of the IT globe, and when Flash's "time bomb" code went off on January 12, it did more than just make nostalgic browser games harder to revisit: It brought an entire Chinese railroad to a standstill.
According to a report by Apple Daily, the problem reared its head for China Railway Shenyang in Dalian, Liaoning just after 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Per an event timeline outlined by Github, the head of a switching station reported being unable to access the railroad's timetables, which they normally did through a browser-based Flash interface. Over the next half hour, reports of similar failures poured in from across the network, with as many as 30 stations implicated according to a CR Shenyang statement reported by a Chinese blog.
Only after technicians went online to research bug fixes did officials learn of the global Flash shutdown, news of which seemingly didn't penetrate the insular Chinese internet. A translation of the Github timeline suggests restoring software backups temporarily restored service around noon, though outages returned again at around 2:00 p.m., and later on in the evening. CR Shenyang's response team then reportedly began exploring a reversion to older software systems, its options apparently consisting of an unspecified Microsoft-based setup, or an archived, pirated version of Flash without the "time bomb" code. Technicians settled on the latter, and around 1:00 a.m. on the 13th, CR Shenyang successfully brought one of its stations fully online. By 2:30 a.m., all but one route was back in service and the railroad's Y2K21 nightmare behind it.
Adobe surely won't be happy to hear its abandonware will shamble on in pirated form, though it'd have the darnedest time taking legal action against CR Shenyang. Copyright laws in China, as Captain Barbossa would say it, are treated more like what you'd call guidelines than actual rules.
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