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Sunday, January 16

No Flash… no trains: Dalian’s rail network immobilized for more than 20 hours

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SELECT wp_posts.*, MATCH (wp_posts.post_title,wp_posts.post_content) AGAINST ('No Flash… no trains: Dalian\'s rail network immobilized more than 20 hours appearance such a blockage China, government investing massively achieve technological sovereignty digital technology, underlines extent dissemination certain proprietary software and concrete consequences strategic choices, taken unilaterally, software developers. STR / AFP Lhe day has not yet dawned Dalian, northern China, Wednesday, January 13, \"Smiles appeared all faces\" employees city\'s main railway depot. more than twenty hours, all trains metropolis 6.7 million inhabitants located coasts Gulf Korea were immobilized quay.&hellip;') as score FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND ( wp_posts.post_date <= '2022-01-16 10:30:23' ) AND wp_posts.ID NOT IN (352355) AND wp_posts.post_type IN ('post', 'page') AND ((wp_posts.post_status = 'publish' OR wp_posts.post_status = 'inherit')) AND MATCH (wp_posts.post_title,wp_posts.post_content) AGAINST ('No Flash… no trains: Dalian\'s rail network immobilized more than 20 hours appearance such a blockage China, government investing massively achieve technological sovereignty digital technology, underlines extent dissemination certain proprietary software and concrete consequences strategic choices, taken unilaterally, software developers. STR / AFP Lhe day has not yet dawned Dalian, northern China, Wednesday, January 13, \"Smiles appeared all faces\" employees city\'s main railway depot. more than twenty hours, all trains metropolis 6.7 million inhabitants located coasts Gulf Korea were immobilized quay.&hellip;') ORDER BY score DESC LIMIT 0, 6


Lhe day has not yet dawned in Dalian, northern China, Wednesday, January 13, when “Smiles appeared on all faces” employees of the city’s main railway depot. For more than twenty hours, all the trains of the metropolis of 6.7 million inhabitants located on the coasts of the Gulf of Korea were immobilized at the quay. The technicians have just restarted the very small part of their computer network, at the origin of the disorder, broke down after an unfortunate event: the long-planned shutdown on January 12 of the Adobe Flash Player software.

The battle was epic, the victory heroic: the story, published live on Chinese social networks Weibo and WeChat, is memorable. “After more than twenty hours of fighting, no one complained, no one gave up. We have makes our hope the fuel of our progress ”, the last of the sixteen messages raves published by the city transport authority.

Read also With the demise of Adobe Flash, a page in web history turns

Central actor of the Web of the 2000s, often mocked for its heaviness and criticized for its security flaws, Flash was used by a Dalian train management program to display, on the Web browsers of certain technicians, the schedules and movements of trains in order to provide for switching operations. In the absence of access to forecasts, all traffic was suspended: “The computer system stopped displaying the pages and within thirty minutes the entire repository had the same problem”, notes the first message, published at 8:16 a.m. on both platforms, from January 12.

Dependence on “proprietary” software

The apparent panic of engineers in Dalian quickly sparked the ire of Chinese internet users, to the point that the post was removed. How can an organization of this size be paralyzed by software that has been obsolete for several years and whose demise was announced in 2017? In any case, the episode illustrates the dependence of many administrations on so-called software “Owners”, whose code is private and protected by copyright.

The railway workers of Dalian did not sin out of archaism, as quickly mocked him several commentators: it was by installing new, more recent computers that a version of Flash was integrated into the network, including the scheduled – and impossible to bypass – interruption of services on January 12. The American group Adobe, owner of the software, has also developed, in anticipation of its extinction, a derivative of its program especially for China and valid until 2023. However, the original developers of the train management interface have left the company and the tool has not been maintained.

In industrial sectors that have to operate without a break for long periods of time, IT failures linked to updating difficulties are not uncommon: managers at Paris-Orly airport had, for example, been forced to maintain all planes on the ground for more than half an hour, in 2015, because of a computer with a version of Windows dating from 1992.

Old versions installed in emergency

To allow a return to normal, Chinese technicians had to install old versions of operating systems and Flash in which the software interruption had not yet been programmed – a practice that was to be temporary since it was prohibited by Adobe. It is this process that could “Take time to set up for employees who do not have broad computer skills”, supports an article from the Do News agency by defending the difficult crisis management of the Dalian authorities.

The appearance of such a blockage in China, where the government is investing massively to achieve technological sovereignty in digital technology, underlines the extent of the dissemination of certain proprietary software and the concrete consequences of strategic choices, taken unilaterally, software developers.

In France, an administration has chosen to do without the tools of the world leaders in the sector so as not to submit to unwanted updates: the national gendarmerie, which developed, from the end of the 2000s, a free operating system, GendBuntu, now installed on more than 77,000 of its computers.

Read also: The cloud, a sovereignty issue


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