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Thrills, suspense, Flash updates: Dalian railway tech support goes viral

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Flash Dalian train depot screenshot

Dalian, China—“1411 hours. The station is back in crisis. Once again, we cannot use the printer.”

A railway depot in the northeastern city of Dalian held China’s technically savvy readers in suspense—or, perhaps, stitches—with a minute-by-minute bulletin of its 20-hour “battle” to revert a Flash update on Jan. 15, which achieved brief viral fame before being deleted. Screenshots are still available on programming forum Github.

Depot staff were confused when their computers lost access to the local dispatch system on the morning of Jan. 12, according to the bulletin. The reason: Adobe’s last update to its Flash Player included a kill-switch set to go off that day, when the company ended support for the notoriously virus-prone web standard. Flash was little missed—except in the Chinese government, where it remains in widespread use. 

“0816 hours: After calls and online searches, we confirmed the source of the issue is American company Adobe’s comprehensive ban of Flash content.” 

So began the “insurmountable challenge of updating Flash”—a process the depot chronicled on its WeChat public account in the style of a military thriller, written with all the self-awareness of Dwight from “The Office.” As journalist Tony Lin, who first flagged the post in English, wrote on Twitter, it was “the Y2K content the world owes us for 20 years.”

The post was later deleted after catching on with technically minded online wags, many of whom asked why the depot didn’t plan for the retirement of Flash despite three years’ advance warning

The staff divided into hardware and software task forces, and attempted to restore an older version of Flash from a backup “GHOST system,” an effort marked by triumphs and defeats. By 10 p.m., they had mostly restored computers to backup states—when, suddenly, automatic updates caused the systems to disable Flash again.

According to a brief statement which later replaced the viral post, the issue was limited to newer computers in the depot and no trains were affected.

After midnight, the team began to chalk up lasting victories:

“Jan. 13, 0113 hours: ‘Wan Jia Ling station is fixed! Ling Ma shouted…we all gathered and confirmed. The room burst with cheers and applause.”

Finally, after 20 hours, the team had Flash up and running again on all its computers. Flush with victory, the author of the bulletin reflected on what they’d learned:

“During more than 20 hours of fighting, no one complained and no one gave up. The slim hope motivated each and every one and turned into the fuel to push forward. In the solving of the Flash malfunction, the depot displayed true initiative, innovation, and brilliance.”

All translations are TechNode’s own. Featuring contributions from hardware and regulations reporter, Wei Sheng.

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