Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Highway 61 revisited

As I sit here with a Cesária Évora CD on in the house, I have an update to the car AV system issue, wherein it couldn’t stop playing Bob Dylan. That is, I found out why it’s playing a disproportionate amount of Dylan.

I noticed, as it played more songs, that it was not just playing a lot of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, but that it wasn’t playing anything beyond C in the alphabet. I have the files on the microSD organized in folders (directories) based on the artists and albums, so at the root level there’s a Bob Dylan folder, and that has sub-folders called Blonde On Blonde, Blood On the Tracks, Desire, and so on. In those folders are the MP3 files for the songs. I used the touch-screen interface to look in the folder of the current song, then went up to the artist level, and then to the root. I scrolled the list of artists, which should have gone from 10,000 Maniacs to Youssou N’Dour. But the list stopped somewhere near the end of the Cs.

Ha! There appears to be a limit to the number of directories. And with only around 1000 songs active, instead of the 4000 on the chip, the chances of Dylan had been multiplied by 4 for each play. No wonder I was getting so much! OK, I can work around that limit.

I took the chip into the house, put it in my computer, and wrote a script to pull all the files out to the root level, so there are no directories/folders. /Bob Dylan/Desire/03 Mozambique.mp3 became /Bob Dylan-Desire-03 Mozambique.mp3, and now I have 3984 files in the root directory, and no folders. Pop the chip back into the car system, and try it out.

Great! There’s a D... now an L... a G. Much better!

But it didn’t take too long to notice that it never played anything beyond L. I went to the list and scrolled again (and was happy that one can scroll backward, and it wraps around).

This time, it was easy to tell exactly: the files in each directory are numbered sequentially by the system, and with everything in the root directory I could see what the actual limit is: 2500 files, exactly. That’s horrid!

2500 files might be a reasonable limit when microSD chips only went up to 2 GB. But that was a while ago, and it’s perfectly easy to have 8000 files or more now, and higher-capacity chips are coming out all the time. It’s absolutely ridiculous to build in limits like this, considering how the technology is moving forward. Any reasonable file system has tossed such limits away long ago.

I’m trying to delete 1500 files from the microSD card, but it’s tough: the music on my computer is already selected from my far more extensive CD collection, and represents my favourites. How do I pick 1500 favourites to eliminate? The first 500 went gradually, but it wasn’t too awful. The second 500 were a real challenge. I’m still working on the last 500, and it’s very tough!

I’ll be writing to Pioneer, to express my displeasure and to see if there’s anything that can be done. And I guess I’ll go back to streaming the music from my BlackBerry, which still has all the songs, and for which there’s no such limitation.

Update, 4 p.m.: Pioneer's customer service gave me a prompt response, which confirms what I saw:

The maximum number of files on USB or SD that this unit will support is 2500. Currently there are no plans to change that specification. Your feedback is appreciated and will be passed along to product planning.


Call me Paul said...

Heh. I ran into a similar problem in my new car. The Hyundai factory radio has a USB input into which I can plug my iPod. Unfortunately, the Hyundai factory radio software doesn't properly link up with the iPod (although Hyundai calls it 'iPod ready'). It sees the files and directories on the iPod directly, without going through the iPod's TOC, so I see a message on my radio display something like this: "Now Playing gx4q760pm3tx77s25t," instead of the name of the song and artist. Also, it plays the songs in the order they are physically on the drive in the iPod, which bears no relation to the order in which they are listed in the iPod's user interface. Also, it doesn't remember where it is, so if I turn off the raido, then turn it back on, it starts all over at the first song again. What all of that means is that I have to plug my iPod into my car using the headphone jack cable and use the iPod's touchscreen control instead of being able to use the controls on the face of the radio. Inconvenient, and a little bit dangerous when driving.

Barry Leiba said...

Oh, my, Paul... that's even worse! Yow.

My system also has an iPod interface, but we haven't tested that yet (I don't have an iPod, myself). My workaround for the situation I'm describing (apart from keeping the file count on the microSD card to 2500) is to use Bluetooth streaming from my BlackBerry, which does allow me to use the Nav system's touch-screen to control it. But I don't really think that's any safer to do while I'm driving, really.

For control, the best thing is to just leave either the SD card or the BlackBerry on random play, and reject any unwanted songs with the steering-wheel-mounted control.

Brent said...

Just finished the Steve Jobs bio...and it is very clear why he was such a control freak when it came to his products...this is a perfect example.