Seattle Mazda drivers can't change their radios off of KUOW

Over the past couple of weeks, some people who listen to KUOW in their Mazdas say their car radio is permanently stuck on 94.9 FM. It’s only affecting KUOW, Mazdas from 2016, and we have no idea why…

It still isn’t clear why specifically KUOW’s signal is affecting some specific Mazda cars. One theory points to the recent rollout of 5G technology for smartphones.

A few weeks ago cellphone companies — and KUOW — switched to a 5G signal. But many cars are still only equipped with 3G and glitch when faced with the newer 5G. Some car companies put out advisories to customers last year ahead of the switch that an issue like this could arise.

But the 5G theory still doesn’t answer why some Mazdas are only affected by KUOW…

KUOW is an NPR affiliate. I listen to the other one, KNKX. (Or ‘college’ music station KEXP.) If you have to get stuck on a radio station, I can think of worse ones than an NPR station.

I’m confused, an HD radio station switched over to 5g cellular data frequencies? That seems like something that is not a thing…

Obviously there’s a conspiracy to force Mazda owners to be indoctrinated by public radio.

Toyota drivers, they’re coming for you next…

*KUOW secretly stands for Kowtow, U are Owned by Washington.

They’ll never get to the F150 owners. I’m not sure what the F stands for - it’s probably Freedom! You’ll have to pry the dial of my radio from my cold, dead hands. All these ignorant liberals want to infringe our radio rights, when they don’t even understand the difference between amplitude modulation and frequency modulation.

I have a Mazda, a few years newer than the ones affected by this. A few weeks ago I did happen to notice that the radio/infotainment system “froze” for a minute or two, and the volume, mute, etc. buttons didn’t seem to do anything. The it all went back to normal.

Come to think of it it was tuned to the local NPR station at the time. I didn’t try to tun to another station.

I would eat a gun if forced to listen to NPR.

Why? Better than ‘News Radio’ (i.e., typically Right-leaning commercial stations with lots of commercials), Country & Western, new music that all sounds the same…

HD Radio broadcasts some text information about the station, the show, song, etc., and many NPR stations also broadcast some sort of time signal. My guess is the information KUOW is broadcasting is either corrupted or correct, but has triggered a bug in the Mazda radios. The Mazda radio is then trusting this input it receives and doing something with it, like overwriting a buffer or whatever stupid programming mistake can be made.

Expect a wave of people fuzzing HD radios by embedding unexpected data into the meta data signals, just to see what happens.

I wonder what happens if people completely unplug the radio (or the car battery) so it’s properly powered off, not just turning the car off, so the radio stays powered on a little bit to remember stations and the time and stuff.

I don’t understand the thing about 5G glitching out 3G. It just won’t work. If a car only has a 3G cell radio, and 3G signals are turned off, then the cell radio just won’t work. If 3G is still available, and 5G is added, the 3G cell radio won’t even notice the 5G signals.

I’m not saying it isn’t happening, just that people (including dealer service techs) don’t understand technology so the reports don’t make much sense.

Of course, I know nothing about the actual technical details of HD radio, and somebody who does can probably think of tons of things that could go wrong. My guesses are just based on decades of trouble shooting computer technology.

It’s thought to be album images sent w/o an extension (.jpg) so you pretty much nailed it.

Drive article on it, .

I’m not a software developer, I mean, I cobble together spaghetti out of bash and call it good enough, but even I know that if I get a file that doesn’t end in .jpg I shouldn’t explode.

# Mazda radio code
# Figure out what to do with the image data from the HD stream based on file extension
case ${filename##*.} in
  jpg)
    display_jpeg($filename)
  ;;
  jpeg)
    display_jpeg($filename)
  ;;
  gif)
    display_gif($filename)
  ;;
  *)
    bootloader_write($filename)
  ;;
esac

Makes sense.

I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it gets a filename with an extension it doesn’t understand it does the right thing, but if it gets an extension that is null it shits the bed (technical term).

Another Mazda radio issue – it has problems with the “99% Invisible” podcast.

TLDR: It has something to do with the %I, but a firm conclusion isn’t there.

Brian

What about Pulse Width Modulation? Or Spread Spectrum?

I’ve heard the phrase, “eat a bullet” before. This one’s new to me.

I admire people of big appetites, though, so …

Don’t have a KUOW man!

I can sympathize. Since the beginning of the year, the clock on the navigation system in my 2010 Honda Fit resets to 12:00 January 1, 2002 when the car is restarted. Prior to that, the time was exactly correct. Supposedly the issue will resolve on its own in August.

Why August?

It’s a pretty dumb software bug. But what’s even dumber it that it requires making a service appointment to fix, and apparently a hardware swap. A lot of people don’t seem to like over-the-air updates for their car… but this is the alternative.

Go down to Olympia and check out KAOS. I guest hosted a couple shows there back in my college days. I assume it still exists.

Ever checked out Katina?

It do.