Thursday, December 27, 2007

XM Radio quirk

We've been extremely happy with our XM radios. Laura's had hers for two years, and I've had mine for a year, and in that time we've had zero problems. That ended Tuesday, when both of our radios stopped working in the Jeep. Our Roady XT radios transmit an FM signal the car radios pick up; you set the frequency on the XM radio, then set your radio to the same frequency. But they stopped transmitting FM, and the menu option to set the frequency disappeared. I called XM tech support and spent twenty minutes with a very nice but extremely clueless support person in Bangalore, who was convinced I was making this up. I was eventually transferred to a Texan who was apparently allowed to deviate from the troubleshooting checklist ("Turn the radio off, then on. Does the problem persist?") and answer my questions. Turns out, XM just decided that the new FCC broadcast rules for portable FM transmitters were too complex for them to follow, so when our radios did their periodic update, they disabled the FM transmitters in them. It's easier to make all of their customers upgrade their hardware or purchase after-market FM transmitters. I should mention that they did this without warning, so our first hint that our car radios would stop working came when our car radios stopped working. They also did it without informing their front-line tech support about it. Thanks, XM!

Our house music at work is courtesy of the digital music channels on Bright House cable. Since our cable bill is set to increase significantly soon, we're considering dropping our cable service and using satellite radio instead. Given this little bit of chaos with our home radios, I'll start looking at Muzak instead.

An aside: I'm in the habit of listening to the XM radio while we drive. Now that we're listening to broadcast radio again in the car, we're experiencing a bit of a learning curve again. For one thing, we're totally not used to commercials on the radio. For another, we're in the habit of checking the radio to see what song and artist are playing. It's suddenly odd looking at the radio and seeing no useful information other than the time.

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