back to article Car radios crashed by station broadcasting images with no file extension

In January, drivers of older model Mazdas in the area around Seattle, Washington, started seeing their HD Radio receivers crash upon tuning to the local public radio station. The issue, according to the Seattle Times, has affected 2014-2017 model year Mazdas with infotainment systems that support HD Radio. Tuning to KUOW, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    brb I'm off for a drive with my bladerf and some dodgy rds2 signals

    1. Notas Badoff

      Any direction will do

      It is rather different for someone to suggest "turn it off, then on again" but only after driving 200 miles away from home first.

      Or.. wait. Didn't Dabbs suggest this just last week?

      1. Joe W Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Any direction will do

        This is called a "call-back".

        If it were a comedy show.... (not sure about that one...)

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Any direction will do

        I suppose you could disconnect the radio antenna, thus removing the offending signal. Or maybe find a metal shipping container and park in it while you sort things out. But then the issue of carbon monoxide fumes comes up.

        Anyway, it isn't clear that any of these measures would actually relieve the problem.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Any direction will do

          On consideration, maybe only the radio antenna needs to be inside a metal container. A biscuit tin, or a tin can, maybe the long one that hot dogs come in. Or else wrapped in aluminium?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      SOOOO TEMPTING!!!!!

  2. Dante Alighieri Bronze badge
    Coat

    Buggles

    Video killed the radio star

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Buggles

      Yes, like it says in the byline

      1. Dante Alighieri Bronze badge
        FAIL

        Re: Buggles

        my bad, I missed that last night.

        1. Rob Daglish Bronze badge

          Re: Buggles

          Indeed, I only popped by to say what a fantastic sub head it was…

  3. HildyJ Silver badge
    FAIL

    GIGO for the goddesses sake!

    10% of the blame to KUOW.

    90% of the blame who DIDN'T CHECK THEIR INPUTS.

    "Garbage In Garbage Out" should be branded on the forehead of each one.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

      0% of the blame to the radio station but perhaps some to the vendor of their broadcast software.

      Not sure I would blame a local NPR station for not auditing their software purchase for compliance with RDS standard 3.14159 part II, section 2.718 sub 0

      1. I am the liquor

        Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

        If there even is a standard that covers this, which there probably isn't. More likely Mazda's developers just made a wrong assumption that a JPEG file name will always end with .jpg because they usually do. Presumably other manufacturers' software was displaying them correctly.

        1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

          > a JPEG file name will always end with .jpg

          Many years ago I had to explain to someone that simply renaming a plain text file with the suffix .doc did not cause it to become a Microsoft Word document. They were indignant, and demanded to know why anyone bothered with file suffixes in that case. >sigh<

          1. DexterWard

            Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

            It’s not an unreasonable expectation that the OS would do the conversion if you changed the extension. Then the machine file format and human readable extension would be in sync.

            I realise no current OS does this, but it’s certainly not a bad idea.

            (Didn’t the original MacOS do something like this with its resource fork?)

        2. JohnGrantNineTiles

          Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

          There is a standard for RDS, it's IEC 62106. And no, I don't know what it says about filenames.

    2. MJB7

      Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

      And another 90% of the blame ("blame" doesn't have to be conserved) to the people who decided the radio software didn't need to be upgradeable.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

        How about another 90% to the fizzheads who figured broadcast radio needed to have a software controlled receiver which should be capable of displaying pictures. Where I come from, that's called a TV, not a radio, and watching TV while driving is contra-indicated.

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

          I'm assuming the picture in question is the station logo, which might make it easier to find the station in the list than just having text?

          1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

            Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

            Unless your radio station re-brands itself every few years. I'll always understand "Radio 2" but I've no idea what today's logo is.

            1. MatthewSt
              Facepalm

              Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

              Pretty sure in RDS it's called "BBC R2" now, not "Radio 2"

              1. dogcatcher

                Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                Wouldn't that be the Light Programme that I can't find on the wireless these days?

                1. ricardian

                  Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                  It used to be between Hilversum and Schenectady on Long Wave

                  1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

                    Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                    Broadcasting on 1500 metres from Daventry?

                    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                      Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                      The 1500m Long Wave transmitter for the Light programme was Droitwich. I think that Daventry was converted to MW for the Third Programme, and eventually for SW broadcasting.

                    2. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
                      Thumb Up

                      Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                      1500 m was the Home Service.

                    3. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                      https://grimeton.org/

                    4. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                      "[...] 1500 metres [...]"

                      Ah - the days when you could calibrate your transmitter frequency meter against that 200kHz signal. Then someone decided to change it to 198kHz.

                2. Tom 7 Silver badge

                  Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                  I miss that since they took cigarette lighters out of cars!

              2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                I don't know how many distinct fields for "identity of radio station" DAB provides, but each radio that I own seems to use different ones, and in a different order. Is it "BBC 6 Music" or is it just "6 Music"? Does it depend on the day of the week? Hypothetical since except for performer documentaries, Six seems almost never to be accidentally playing something I want to hear. It's uncanny, however do they do it. John Peel's son being there helps probably. :-)

            2. katrinab Silver badge

              Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

              An orange 2 in a white circle in an orange background, or the reverse (white 2, orange circle, white background).

              Other BBC radio stations follow the same idea, except with different colours.

              1 - Black

              2 - Orange

              3 - Red

              4 - Dark Blue

              5 - Light Blue

              6 - Teal

              1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

                Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                @Katrinab - thanks for this. Your post resulted in a web search finding the "Logopedia" website. Apart from it proving me wrong about the BBC radio logos changing every 20 minutes (the Radio 2 logo is essentially unchanged since 2007) it's a treasure trove of logo-related nostalgia.

                1. David 132 Silver badge
                  Thumb Up

                  Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                  >it's a treasure trove of logo-related nostalgia.

                  ...as is looking on Youtube for the BBC Christmas idents over the years. Very nostalgic, with in my case an occasional moment of "f*ck me! That was 1992??? I could have sworn it was only 5 years ago, a decade at most..."

                  But then, similar experiences are pretty much a daily occurrence for me these days. Try to tell me that the 80s started over 40 years ago and I will laugh at you.

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                    The other day I was looking at the album cover for The Stooges Funhouse (autographed by Iggy and framed, on a friend's wall) and realized it had been well over half a century since I first heard it.

                    I nearly had to sit down.

                    Remember, we're all gettin' old ... the alternative doesn't bear thinking about.

                  2. katrinab Silver badge
                    Windows

                    Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                    And 1983 is closer to WW2 than it is to today.

                    Anyone that tells you they won two world wars, you can point out that the last surviving veteran of WW1 died 11 years ago.

            3. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

              Me birds car puts up images of the stations logos but I tend to switch to the ascii listing so I know what I'm acutally tuning to.

        2. EricB123 Bronze badge

          Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

          Exactly! I'm all for using technology when there is a clear added benefit. This sounds like an over teched 5 button car radio.

          1. David 132 Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

            I currently have an Evoque as a dealership loaner vehicle while my Disco is in for repairs (yeah, yeah, its natural habitat, etc etc).

            Everything in the Evoque is shiny LCD touch screen. The first time I drove it, I managed to turn the radio on, but couldn't for the life of me - without either taking my eyes dangerously off the road, or stopping - figure out how to change the radio station. Being an LCD, there's no tactile reference points whatsoever, so after a few seconds of blindly and fruitlessly pawing at the screen, I had a brainwave.

            Pressed the "voice command" button on the steering wheel and said, enunciating every syllable like Joyce Grenfell, "change the radio frequency to 89.9".

            It worked.

            Which left me:

            1) impressed at the technology that could do voice recognition of an arbitrary phrase like that, and yet simultaneously

            2) very, very depressed that the over-complication of technology has made that necessary.

            I want my 5 pop-in preset selector buttons, godsdammit! I mean, they're even called "radio buttons" in GUI design terminology, for precisely that reason!

            Grrr.

            1. CuChulainn Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

              Upvote for a humorous post.

              The Golden Rule I always follow when getting a new car, though, is to figure out how stuff works before I drive off anywhere.

              It reminds me of the time in the early 80s when - as a spotty kid - I replaced the brake fluid in my Cortina Mk IV. I drove off to take it round the block, only to discover at the first junction I hadn't bled it properly and thus had no brakes. I frantically pumped the pedal and managed to stop... ish. I shit myself.

              My radio in my present Ford has five preset tabs on a touchscreen, and you can swipe to get another five, then another five, then another five.

              I have the first block of five set to Planet Rock, Planet Rock, Planet Rock, BBC R5L, BBC 5SX (the latter two for the football, you understand). Then all five of the other three blocks set to Planet Rock in case of emergency.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

              "[...] enunciating every syllable like Joyce Grenfell [..]"

              When it gets the wrong station may need to say "Radio, don't do that....'"

              1. David 132 Silver badge
                Windows

                Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                The sad thing is that the young'uns on here probably don't have a clue who we're talking about.

                If ever I'm feeling down, listening to the monologues of Joyce Grenfell or Bob Newhart (USS Codfish, The Driving Instructor, Tobacco, Bomb Disposal) will always make me laugh.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

                  Also "Blaster" Bates and his stories of explosive demolitions..

            3. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

              We live at the bottom of a valley. If I've been driving the misses car home listening to R4 then when I get in it it tunes to another station and refuses to let me listen to R4 until about 3 miles from home. I drop the brats off and drive home and I can park up and listen to R4 for as long as I like but turn the radio off and on and it doesnt exist. My car is fine in that sense but its 20% more fuel guzzly and that hurts at the moment!

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

        Radio station logo, band album cover art.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

          Reports mention music artwork, but I don't know if reporters invented that element.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

        And another 90% for not having a factory reset, even as a H/W jumper.

      4. phuzz Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

        and another 90% for whoever didn't allow it to gracefully fail when it gets bad data.

        From the descriptions it sounds like it's crashing, and then as soon as it restarts, it's trying to re-ingest the bad data again and crashing once again.

    3. Korev Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

      > 90% of the blame who DIDN'T CHECK THEIR INPUTS.

      And welcome to Bobby Tables FM

      1. I am the liquor

        Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

        Yes quite. You have to wonder how Mazda's software would stand up to someone who's actually trying to break it.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

      ""Garbage In Garbage Out" should be branded on the forehead of each one."

      Back in about 1976 or so when I did my O level Computer Studies course, one of the first in the UK, GIGO was one of the very first things we were taught. Checking data was valid was important, but with less emphasis than today since it wasn't just any Tom, Dick or Harriet inputing data back then.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

        "[...] but with less emphasis than today since it wasn't just any Tom, Dick or Harriet inputing data back then."

        Way back in time we would come into the office to find a pile of mainframe dumps (post mortems) on what was considered a stable IT system. Quite often an IT department had employed a new graduate whose mistakes and misunderstandings found new holes in validation routines.

    5. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

      Programmed by Little Bobby Tables, I assume.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HD radio

    To save everyone else looking it up, apparently HD radio is some American thing where a radio station broadcasts its analogue signal and, on the edges of its channel, a digital version of the same content, vaguely kind of like teletext but for radio.

    (There was a time when this was a .co.uk site)

    1. Joe W Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: HD radio

      Thanks - I was wondering. So it is not DAB, which would be my first thought. High-Definition in the title and all (yeah, lots of stations in the UK and other countries transmit in really p**s-poor quality, but that's not the fault of DAB, which support decent bit rates).

      Edit: ah, HD is not "high definition" but "hybrid digital". Since the readership outside of the US has no clue what this thing even is, please do explain those acronyms in a short sentence in the article, would be really nice.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: HD radio

        Edit: ah, HD is not "high definition" but "hybrid digital". Since the readership outside of the US has no clue what this thing even is, please do explain those acronyms in a short sentence in the article, would be really nice.

        Hell, I'm American and I had no clue that's what it was...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: HD radio

          "Hell, I'm American and I had no clue that's what it was..."

          Don't worry about it. Based on what the rest of the world sees on US TV shows and movies, the media don't expect you to be intelligent anyway so you fit right in :-)

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: HD radio

            My mind absolutely boggles over the fact that the rest of the world is daft enough to pay perfectly good dollars for US TV shows. Nobody around here will admit to watching them ...

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: HD radio

              Some of them are ok. Once they've hired some British actors of course ;)

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: HD radio

                ::shudder::

                I've seen that in both directions (Yank shows re-done with Brit actors, and vice-versa). Inevitably it just makes what was once merely awful into something excruciatingly bad.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: HD radio

              From what I understand, only the best of the best (in general) is what we get to see. And even then, those of us watching get to choose whether to watch or not :-)

              We're all different and have different reasons for watching, or not, as the case may be. Personally, I prefer SF. I've seen some good stuff and some clearly comic-book stuff. Not just US either. Korean, Japanese, Brazilian, French and Norwegian are other foreign SF I've watched recently, some surprisingly good and thoughtful, others, just "eye candy" to kill time or as a distraction while doing other stuff, although the sub-titled stuff does take a bit more concentration since I can barely scrape through in French or German, no chance in other languages :-)

          2. seldom

            Re: HD radio

            There are very few excuses for being so egregiously rude to someone based on their nationality (especially when they are self-deprecating). I really hope that you don't have a concrete reason to hate americans (they blew up your family in a drone strike, invaded your country, cancelled Firefly).If not then the smiley after your racist comment is just a get-out clause.

            I also didn't have a clue what that was, and am grateful for the previous poster who infomed us all.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: HD radio

              Apart from most people in the USA being the same race as me, you might care to note that I was insulting the US media, not the people of the USA. In particular, note that even if I was insulting the people of the USA, being in a different country doesn't necessarily mean people are a different race. Of course, by some definition, I may be mixed race since I have English, German and French ancestry (at least!). My wife is part English, French, Canadian First Nations, Italian and (still to be confirmed) Semitic. And that's just the couple of hundred years of the family history she's managed to trace so far.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: HD radio

              > your racist comment

              I hate to be pedantic(*) but the other gentleman's comment could only be construed as xenophobic, not racist.

              Though to be frank, I assumed he was a septic himself and was merely commenting on the stereotype.

              (*) Example of a get out clause.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: HD radio

                I wouldn't even call it xenophobic. I'd call it realistic ... although describing something as random as the handful of TV shows that make it across the pond "the best of" might be pushing the term a trifle.

        2. Mike 16 Silver badge

          Re: HD radio

          I always assumed the HD stood for Harley Davidson.

      2. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: HD radio

        FWIW... HD radio, regardless of what the HD stands for, is also higher quality than a regular FM signal.

        And the standard also allows for two or more separate stations to be muxed onto the same frequency; for example in my neck of the woods, 89.9 HD1 is a classical station, 89.9 HD2 is a children's classical/arts station, and 89.9 HD3... well, I'm not sure, never bothered to look. All are on the same frequency, but if the signal quality drops out my radios will fall back to basic FM and just the first of the three stations.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: HD radio

      "There was a time when this was a .co.uk site"

      And yet, contrary to the failing memory of insular xenophobes, mostly of the AC persuasion, it somehow has managed to publish articles from Silicon Valley near daily over all these years.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: HD radio

        I remember 15 odd years ago in the UK having a mobile phone ( small colour screen, probably a Samsung, maybe a Nokia) that had some ability to show a colour logo and programme information when using the FM radio.

        Since it was a largely useless feature I didn't use and so don't really remember it well.

        Okay, I've just looked it up. It was called Visual Radio, and nobody else used it either. And it used a data connection to display text and info, and so it is irrelevant to this article. (I couldn't remember if images were broadcast, like the digital info in RDS is). I apologies for wasting your time with this off topic post.

        https://www.radioandtelly.co.uk/visualradio.html

        1. JacobZ

          Thank you Re: HD radio

          No apologies needed. Obscure historical dead ends in the evolution of tech are always fascinating and *never* a waste of time.

        2. stiine Silver badge

          Re: HD radio

          Don't. This kind of post is what makes El Reg's commentards special.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: HD radio

      So is the HD radio just another name for RDS that we have had in Europe since the 1980s?

      RDS2 supports pictures and html/css.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: HD radio

        No. It's totally and completely different. It was invented and patented in the USA. None of that old fashioned Yooropeen stuff! It just looks exactly the same in operation.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HD radio

        > So is the HD radio just another name for RDS that we have had in Europe since the 1980s?

        As I understand, both use the "edge" of the channel to modulate a digital signal, but whereas RDS is only low bandwidth text and some other metadata (low res pics and so on), the yanks modulate a digital version of the actual audio stream on it (someone above says multiple streams even), so it seems more like the bastards child of DAB and RDS.

        But all I know about it is what the first search result told me.

    4. andy gibson

      Re: HD radio

      I'm in the UK and my old 2005 car used to show the station name and the track playing on an FM radio.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: HD radio

        Cars made in 2005 are considered "old"?

        What an awful plastic throw-away world we live in ... When I were a nipper, a 17 year old car was just about broken in, not even middle-aged yet.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HD radio

          "When I were a nipper, a 17 year old car was just about broken in, [...]"

          When I were a nipper, a 5 year old car was just about a pile of rust.

          1. David 132 Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: HD radio

            Let's be brutally frank here... if you were a child in the UK in the 70s, I think you could say that of just about any British or Italian car older than about 6 months. (I was originally going to type "that had been driven off the dealership forecourt" but realized that on balance I was probably being too harsh).

            Regardless, 5 years was practically "Telegram from the Queen" territory for them.

          2. jake Silver badge

            Re: HD radio

            Yeah, I've lived in the UK. Condolences.

  5. martinusher Silver badge

    Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

    Not mentioned in this article is that the cost of a replacement 'head' for the infotainment system is $1500. We all know that car electronics is wildly inflated in price but this isn't the first time I've seen or been offered custom options at many times the cost of generic. A decent Bluetooth radio is less than $100; you can spend more if you want, but why bother?

    Mazda also needs a lesson in software development. I know that Microsoft has never been able to process file extensions properly, their mindset is still very much in the DOS 8.3 days. UNIX never had the file extension -- you could add them but it was just part of the name. You'd never, ever, make decisions about a file content based on the name, that's asking for trouble.

    (HD radio's crap anyway, I'm surprised that anyone is still bothering with it. Its our (US) answer DAB. Like DAB "Hybrid Digital" is based on proprietary technology, it places one or more digital subcarriers outside the audio band. The audio you get from it low to mediocre quality, its better than DAB because you can still receive the conventional signal but with certain caveats. For example, FM with HD is likely to be broadcast as medium quality mono and AM with HD tends to be noisy, about the same level of hiss that you'd get from a really cheap cassette recorder. Like DAB HD is a redundant technology - when out and about I can stream audio into my car more reliably than I can receive radio stations.)

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

      Not mentioned, except for these lines:

      According to the Seattle Times, Lorenzo Pieruccioni, service manager at Mazda of Olympia, Washington, said he'd seen several customers come in with radio problems, which he attributed to a corrupt Connectivity Master Unit (CMU).

      The CMU moderates the flow of video and audio signals to the infotainment system. It costs $1,500 normally, but it remains scarce due to supply chain issues.

    2. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

      I'd say marks off for not reading the article, but full credits for the part with the rant on file extensions. And a small bonus for the explanation (which you might have wnated to proof read - and this comment now will contain several grammatical blunders, just due to Muphry's Law - that _is_ the correct spelling).

      Having lived in a country that did make the switchover to DAB I see no problems with it, not where I lived and travelled. And I do not think it is a redundant technology, as cell phone reception is not great in certain regions. FM would be good enough for me, though. Getting more stations on the very limited spectrum through DAB is cool, and getting the radio to track the station better (also because the station does not have to change frequency from transmitter to transmitter) is convenient.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

        Oddly enough, I still manage to get by with good old fashioned AM/FM receivers. Suits news, traffic/weather reports and baseball (in season) just fine. Broadcast music all sounds odd to my ear, so I avoid it.

      2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

        I guess you've never been to Scotland. I had a fortnight there last year camping and hiking. There are lots of areas with no coverage, mostly due to terrain, and in general it hits all the high-frequency services, so if there's no phone signal then it's likely there won't be DAB and usually no FM either. MW is patchy but LW is reliable. I always take my trusty Sony SW100 when I'm up there.

        1. Jonathon Green
          WTF?

          Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

          Isn’t that what people go to those bits of Scotland *for*?

          1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

            Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

            Outside of the haggis hunting season, yes.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

              Outside of the haggis hunting season, the midges are hunting YOU

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

                Inside of the haggis it's too dark to see.

        2. thondwe

          Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

          Bits of Wales and other areas much the same - plus since we're on the south coast of Wales, our "coverage" is usually from across the water in north Somerset/Devon - so "local" travel news "INFO" is always useless (to us)

      3. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

        >which you might have wnated to proof read - and this comment now will contain several grammatical blunders, just due to Muphry's Law - that _is_ the correct spelling).

        Not sure if deliberate, but oh, the ironing is delicious.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

      >A decent Bluetooth radio is less than $100; you can spend more if you want, but why bother?

      Aftermarket head units are limited in how much current they can draw through the car's fuse box. This limits the output of their amplifiers.

      Additionally, the car owner may have got used to Track Skip and Volume controls on the steering wheel.

      There are of course aftermarket car stereo setups that are superior to the factory fitted system, but they do require more work and fiddly wiring than just swapping a head unit.

      Most adults don't bother if their vehicle shipped with a halfway decent sounding system.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

        Aftermarket head units are limited in how much current they can draw through the car's fuse box. This limits the output of their amplifiers.

        Yes. I've often found that the typical 10 amp circuit for a car radio is far to low to produce a decent output.

        </sarcasm>

        Amps multiplied by Volts equals Watts.

        1 amp at the 13.9v-14.4v output of a car alternator is therefore ~14v and so ~14 watts. Most car speakers are 10w, with aftermarket units being 25w. 3 amps (42w) therefore runs 4 typical 10w car speakers at full.

        4 25w speakers can be run at full output off of ~7 amps, and for reference, that "full output" is at a level that with prolonged use while stationary could get you prosecuted for anti social behaviour, cause you permanent hearing damage after ~15 minutes, and cause structural damage to your vehicle through the vibrations from the speakers being at a level of physical impacts shaking the spot welds holding the car together.

        The only people wanting more output than that are the Gary boy crowd, whom are in general more despised by other motorists than BMW drivers.

        1. Great Bu

          Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

          If 4x25W speaker outputs is enough to "shake the spot welds" however does it cope with the impacts of 2 tons of car hitting potholes at 100mph ??

          Not to put too fine a point on in, your numbers are absolute horse shit.

          Any energy input to a car's structure measured in Joules rather than kilojoules is simply below the error margin for caring about, driving up a 1 inch bump puts more energy into the car's structure than the loudest radio you could ever hope to run (raising a 2 ton car by 1 inch needs around 500 joules of energy, one second's output from your putative 4x25W system is 100 Joules. If the car was raised over and entire second it would still take in 5x that energy but, of course, the average car can easily hit dozens of such small bumps in a single second so the vibrational energy from those events is many times anything your radio is going to produce and yet, somehow, your car is still* in one piece a decade and 100,000 miles later.....)

          4x25W is not a loud number for a car stereo, it is bog standard for run of the mill cars, any premium system will be significantly louder, even in cars bought by actual grown-ups.

          Also, nobody hates BMW drivers any more, we pity them. It's Audi drivers we all hate now.

          *Unless you have an Alfa Romeo in which case (a) it already rusted to pieces but (b) the radio never really worked anyway.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

            Also, nobody hates BMW drivers any more, we pity them. It's Audi drivers we all hate now.

            That's because the BMW drivers got fed up with the hate and bought Audis, taking their driving 'skills' with them. I wonder where they'll migrate to next, Mercedes or Tesla maybe?

    4. Oh Matron!

      Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

      Wait until you have to replace a head unit in a BMW.... Was quoted £2500

      (BMWs of the 2000-2012 ish vintage had these horrible orange displays that were garbage: you've probably seen them in MINIs too. Fixed with less than an hour's work, a bit of soldering, some thermal paste for the heatsink (I jest not) and a new £100 display)

      1. alisonken1
        Thumb Down

        Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

        Same thing with a 2005 Nissan Versa Note (orange display).

        And, of course, the display faded just after the warranty period, so no - I live with the bunged display until I replace it.

        (there's only a couple of radio stations our family listens to anyway ; and at 4am in the winter, the display actually comes back to normal - until the temp (or heater) raises the cabin temp a couple of degrees)

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

      "Not mentioned in this article is that the cost of a replacement 'head' for the infotainment system is $1500. We all know that car electronics is wildly inflated in price but this isn't the first time I've seen or been offered custom options at many times the cost of generic. A decent Bluetooth radio is less than $100; you can spend more if you want, but why bother?"

      Why bother? Primarily because few people have the skills to be able to fit a DIN standard radio unit into a modern car which uses customised mounts and wiring, not to mention probably DRM in the cars systems. The price reflects the fairly small volumes manufactured for the custom moulded plastics to fit your specific model of car, because last years model and next years model use a different mount and shape.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

        Initial Problem - Regular visits from thieving bar-stewards who'd rip out the radio from any car left unattended for 30 seconds because it would easily fit in any other car.

        Effect - Unhappy owners paying large wedge to fix glass and replace radios asking for better security.

        Fix - Bespoke radios that fit only other cars with the exact same model, job done :) that cost a bigger wedge to fix when they go wrong :( , neatly transferring the owners cash to manufacturers instead of the thieving bar-stewards. (Irony meter explodes)

      2. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

        There's definitely something as nasty as DRM in ford's head units from the 2008 era... the exact same model was used in the fiesta and the ford transit connect. With firmware altered. Meaning a transit connect unit will only ever allow one set of speakers to exist. If you connect a rear set, the front (door) speakers quit working. I found that out AFTER spending ages mounting speakers to the bulkhead. Gits. Utter gits.

    6. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

      My first experience with file extensions was when I got a Windows PC after coming from the Amiga, which didn't use file extensions. It seemed like a backward step then, so I can't believe its still a causing issues 20+ years later.

      As I moved away from Windows to Linux 10 years ago I have got used to not having to worry about file extensions again, but have experienced several apps and website that refuse to let me upload a photo because it doesn't have a file extension, and to solve the issue I have to rename the file and slap a .jpg .png on to make it work.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

        My first true use of any form of DOS was TRS-DOS and the others like MultiDOS, LDOS etc, then CP/M, then MS-DOS. Moving to Amiga, back to MS-DOS and Windows and now primarily FreeBSD, I've always used the file extensions, not just because many OS require them, but because it's a nice human readable way of identifying what a file is quickly from a directory listing.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Mazda's Infotainment is a pile of garbage

          And THAT is the only valid reason for having a file extension

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Signaless in Seattle

    Radio ga-ga

  7. Filippo Silver badge

    The receiver needs to be physically replaced after receiving a malformed input? What the hell did they do? try { parse_file_name(); } catch { engage_self_destruct(); } ? Seems a bit drastic.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Buffer overflow writing the wrong part of memory would be my guess. Which would point to an even worse design than I've seen postulated so far ...

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Apparently the unit doesn't deign to accept new firmware unless it has booted up... unfortunately it attempts to read the suspect file every time it boots up, at which point it hangs again.

        1. Alan J. Wylie

          This sounds very similar to the "Samsung Blu-Ray bootloop issue" last year

          Here's why your Samsung Blu-ray player bricked itself

          "Upon reboot, the player parsed the XML file again from its flash storage, crashed and rebooted again"

          "The problem with the XML file, sent out on June 18, 2020, is that it wasn't formatted in a way compatible with the device's code"

      2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        A stack buffer? Then you're running randomly through memory. If you're lucky, nothing critical is hit and a reboot solves it. If you're unlucky, a configuration file is toasted and you're left with a carbon brick.

      3. ADRM
        Mushroom

        Buffer over run.

        This would be exactly what caused it. Back in the mists of time in the 2000's I worked for Thomson USA who made RCA and GE TV sets. A certain movie played on FOX and at a certain point in the movie all RCA TV's with a certain version of software lost there audio. 3 Hours later this happened on the West coast. Lots of head scratching and finger pointing at FOX network who transmitted a malformed close caption signal which is fed to the micro and over wrote the audio buffer sections of the micro with garbage. Power off at the wall socket and everything reset back to normal. Turns out this was widespread and the broadcasters had lots of garbage in the Close Captions. A VHS recording would cause the audio to go off again. RCA got the broadcasters to tighten up the Close captioning and the issue went away. Close captions = Oracle + Ceefax subtitles on 888.

  8. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Sad, because

    "When i got the music

    i got a place to go "

  9. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Pedantic note:

    99% Invisible is the name of the podcast that doesnt work on some Mazda head units. However, the podcast that reported on the issue and actually spoke to some of the software devs responsible, is called Reply All (on their occausional Super Tech Support section.)

    Super Tech Support is worth listening to. The format is listeners contacting the show with some just downright baffling tech problems (I.e, car stereo rebooting when one specific podcast is played) and the hosts attempt to track down and speak to involved parties.

    99% Invisible have since maintained a duplicate podcast feed titled 99Percent Invisible as a work-around for Mazda owners, since it was the '% i' string that triggered Mazda's bug. 99% Invisible is about design and the made environment.

    https://gimletmedia.com/shows/reply-all/brh8jm/140-the-roman-mars-mazda-virus

  10. Dolvaran

    Don't be so sure that the head unit is actually borked by this issue - the parts cannon is the goto solution in much of the automotive world. Proper diagnosis is a dying art, it seems.

    1. DwarfPants

      Odd that it looks more like a revenue stream than a cannon, but I take your point.

  11. Lazlo Woodbine Silver badge

    When driving it's probably best not to look at the radio, so why does the signal need a picture attachment in the first place...

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Why does an MP3 player display album artwork?

      1. Lazlo Woodbine Silver badge

        It's really not a good idea to have a distraction whilst driving.

        It's now illegal to even touch your phone whilst driving in the UK...

        1. Boothy Silver badge

          Quote "It's now illegal to even touch your phone whilst driving in the UK"

          Not true.

          The rule now in the UK (since April 2021) is you can't hold a mobile phone, for any reason at all while driving (same goes for a passenger in the front, if the driver is a learner), and this is irrespective of use.

          Previously the law was specific to communication on the phone, other uses were strictly still legal due to the earlier laws being rather old and too use specific! i.e. predating camera phones.

          It is legal in the UK to touch the screen while driving, but only as long as the phone is secure, i.e. not held by you, but in a holder of some sort but you can still be charged with driving without due care and attention, if the police see this, and consider it a distraction (too much time looking at the phone instead of ahead for example).

          So just clicking sat nav to accept an alternate route, or to hang up a hands free call is fine, i.e. a quick glance at the phone and tap. But if you're manually entering an address into the sat nav or trying to tap out a text message, on the touch screen, that could land you with charges.

          1. Boothy Silver badge

            Just to clarify my own text, when I said other uses were strictly still legal due to the earlier laws being rather old and too use specific!.

            I just meant still legal 'under those specific laws'. i.e. if it wasn't communication use on the phone (which is all that was covered under the old laws), you were not breaking that law, but you could potentially still have been prosecuted for something like driving without due care and attention.

            Apparently the law was changed after someone had filmed a car crash from his mobile phone (oh the irony!) whilst driving past the crash. He was seen and prosecuted, but the guy appealed in 2019, and won, as filming wasn't communications, so wasn't actually covered by the law at that time.

            So they updated the law, and now it's any use if in your hand.

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          It's a static image. Probably easier to read and recognise than having the station name displayed as text.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I can read pretty well.

            1. ProfessorLarry

              I consulted on interaction design for infotainment systems at a major automotive supplier in the land of bier und wurst. Image processing is an evolutionarily ancient wired-in function of the visual processing system; reading is a late-acquired learned skill. It takes measurably longer to parse, interpret, and make choices among words than among images--enough so that in safety-critical applications it could spell the difference, say, between looking up to see the car running the light in time or not. Of course, it is always best to supply both text and graphic (long ago established by millions of dollars of defense research). Good interaction design practice is to always supply both. (Which is to say certain recent UI trends are taking us in the wrong direction.)

              Touch screens for in-vehicle applications are a step backward from real buttons and knobs, but some of that can be mitigated by so-called edge-anchored selection, in which important functions are arrayed adjacent to the edges where the raised bezel provides a physical and tactile anchoring reference. The advantage is small but measurable compared to picking out the right spot to tap in the middle of the screen.

              1. davyclam

                touchscreen

                Agree absolutely about using touchscreens in a car; they're even dangerous at sea. A couple of years ago I was approaching a narrow channel at night and needed to zoom in to see the route in better detail. Whilst steering the boat I hit the touchscreen button to go from 1/2 Nm to 1/4 Nm, but my finger was wet or slipped, and instead I zoomed right out to 48 Nm. The screen was then incomprehensible and I had to rely on the old Mk 1 eyeball, which was now compromised by staring at the radar and I had little night vision. Reducing speed allowed me the time for my vision to recover, and I was able to proceed safely.

                Turning a knob one click anti-clockwise would have been a simpler, more user-friendly procedure.

                Touchscreens are not progress in many applications.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: touchscreen

                  You basically read my thoughts. I have both designed software systems for use on (large) vessels and have merchant navy experience (as well as airline flying).

                  My systems were keyboard and mouse operated, and as a development director a lot of the time was spent thinking: right, that icon looks super nice there but how usable is that going to be in a force 8+ with a seasick operator?

                  You can still have pretty icons and whatnot, and touchscreen / mouse operation, which is nice when the weather's calm, but you also need to a) make sure there's an alternative method of operation such as keyboard (knobs are not that good either when you're basically holding onto them to stop you sliding across the bridge) and b) ensure that the point and click methods are not going to get in the way when the weather's rough (the typical example is disabling KDE's push corner to present windows effect, as the mouse is guaranteed to keep sliding into that corner)

          2. Lazlo Woodbine Silver badge

            How is someone allowed to drive if they understand a logo more than text?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              It's been explained above already: we are better at processing images than text. That's one reason why European road signs are iconographic (languages was the other). Same with NATO signs.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Except for the fact that text is an image.

                What, you don't read a page at a time?

        3. Boothy Silver badge

          Quote: "It's really not a good idea to have a distraction whilst driving."

          Just a quick addition, I agree with this bit.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            How is someone allowed to drive if they understand a logo more than text?

            How is someone allowed to comment if they are this obtuse?

  12. cawfee
    Happy

    The Roman Mars Mazda Virus

    Immediately sprang to mind! It's nice to see it name-checked at the bottom of the article.

    There's a great Reply All episode where they try to hunt down this issue with Roman too

  13. David Shaw

    Similar problems in Northern Italy

    Honda cars, 2019 models come with DAB+ radio.

    Suddenly since mid 2021 the DAB+ receivers have been crashing, no output, unprintable characters as Station names etc.

    I tried various levels of reset (you get a brief glimpse of an Android boot when you hold the Volume/Pwr button down for 30 seconds)

    When I took to the Honda dealer, asking for a new car as the radio wasn't working (there's no ashtray, thankfully)

    The dealer explained that ALL of their cars were crashing, but only in th north, Lombardy/Piedmonte/Veneto. They denied any update errors, said it's something environmental.

    I think in this case it's perhaps due to incompatible? Swiss DAB+, which is guaranteed to undo within minutes, all of my resetting and stability nudges.

    If I just scan Swiss and add Radio Svizzera Classica+ or perhaps the aptly named Radio SRF Virus+ then the whole RX shuts down.

    So it's back to familiar italian scratchy FM, AFN_The_Eagle somewhat giving away the secret american nuclear airfields, or Radio Monte Carlo from Milan. In the old days, 80's, every village had their own Band II TX, now hundred FM channels playing the same track, blandness.

    I do miss the Italian DAB mux, whch have both the hilarious BBC WS and some unidentifiable asian language channels...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Similar problems in Northern Italy

      A few years ago one of my colleagues and I both had cellphones from French telco SfR. When we went to the UK on business, any time either of our phones roamed into Vodafone & got the "Welcome to Vodafone, calls cost xxx" SMS message, they crashed. The only solution was to force them to roam onto one fixed UK network, anything but Vodafone.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Similar problems in Northern Italy

      You get AFN Eagle in northern Italy? I only ever catch it in the eastern half of the A6 in Germany.

      Their radio is pretty good actually. If nothing else because of the lack of advertising.

  14. Howard Sway Silver badge

    It costs $1,500

    For a car stereo tuner and D/A converter? Does it come in a solid gold case?

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: It costs $1,500

      > For a car stereo tuner and D/A converter?

      Well, it's them being generous. They could as well ask for $5000, it's not like you can walk away, not if you want a radio in your car, and are the average Joe unable to throw together a solution with 3rd party parts.

      It's the proverbial "offer you can't refuse"...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Software Defined Motoring

    And they all want us to have every aspect of our cars driven by (pun intended) software?

    $Deity help us, if this is the quality of the product we can expect.

    Not to mention Toyotas throttle pedal dilemma, and Tesla's auto pilot and lord knows what else.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Software Defined Motoring

      Careful, sending '$Deity' will crash the software (sending "$Deity" will work).

  16. PeterM42
    Trollface

    If it is any help....

    .....I can get some cat's whiskers

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: If it is any help....

      I've got some small galena crystals ... and an old 9V transistor radio earpiece in the desk drawer.

  17. coddachubb

    More folks need to tune into KISS

  18. KBeee Silver badge
    Happy

    Car radio problems

    When I first got this car in 2018, the radio had a terrible problem which seems to have fixed itself since.

    If I turned on Radio 2 before 9:30, I'd get Chris Evans!

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Car radio problems

      >If I turned on Radio 2 before 9:30, I'd get Chris Evans!

      *shudder* That has to be grounds for redress under any halfway reasonable consumer protection laws. And by "redress" I mean up to and including a War Crimes trial at the Hague. I miss some things about the UK since I left (steak and kidney pie, the Cotswolds, Snowdonia, etc etc) but I do not miss turning on the TV or radio and being confronted by The Ginger Tw@t. At times I felt I was the only person in the whole country who didn't think he was God's Gift To Broadcasting and worth millions in salary...

  19. This Side Up

    Mazda's fault

    "And to hear Xperi and Madza tell it, the broadcaster is to blame for transmitting images ? which show up on HD Radio display screens ? without the required file extension in the file name."

    No, the filename extension shouldn't be required - the content-type should. This problem is all too common. People sent out files which may have DOS-style filename extensions bit no content-type, so they get stored as text or data. Filename extensions are useful if you're not using file type icons but they shouldn't be relied on. I can call files whatever I like (accepting that some characters can't be used) and I can set the file type to what it should be. The two are independent. If the file type is missing then you may be able to guess it if there's a valid extension.

    1. that one in the corner

      Re: Mazda's fault

      Or just look at the first few bytes for the magic numbers, that is all that was needed here; no need for an extra metadata field to be included in the transmission.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: Mazda's fault

        Get out of here with that lefty Unix stuff. Bill Gates chose 3 letter file extensions, and that's good enough for us. You're lucky we don't insist on 8 characters before the dot.

        // Windows icon suspiciously absent...

  20. Dante Alighieri Bronze badge

    KIA UI

    Love the RDS text curtailed in a box that occupies <20% of available space / <50%width of screen

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