XM-Less

XM, there’s something I think you should know. I don’t think I’ll be needing you anymore. It’s just one of those things. I’m sure you’ll understand.*

We decided to pull the plug on both our XM radio subscriptions after much debate. Okay, it was more like a matter of I-don’t-have-a-job-and-really-don’t-need-to-pay-for-radio-anymore. While that was the first and foremost reason there were, however, more than a few others reasons for this decision.

— XM’s billing is so screwed up that it’s not worth going into detail about it. I’ll just get pissed off and want to throw marshmallows at my monitor, and right now I sort of need my monitor.

— The Merger. Read more about it here if you haven’t already heard me pontificate about it.

— I believe my Pioneer Inno receiver has finally bitten the dust. Since yesterday, I have constantly been getting an “Updating” message whenever I wanted to tune in; the only channels I can receive are the emergency channel, the XM Preview channel, and my radio ID channel.

After calling their billing department I was told that because we were behind on payments (which we aren’t, thankyouverymuch), my radio had been disconnected. Without warning, by the way. That’s the reason for the “Updating” message.

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SIRIUS + XM = WTF?

xmx_exclusive_headerIf there’s one thing I dig about Wednesdays it’s the fact that I get to listen to Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour on XMX Channel 2, home of their exclusive programming, on my merry way to work. It’s one of the few reasons I have XM because Dylan spins some incredible tunes in that hour, many of which I ended up purchasing online.

What made it even better was that XMX played the show all day long in case you missed a portion of it. This was also the case with a few other programs they aired. Theme Time Radio Hour is indeed one of my passions.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I turned on my Pioneer Inno and discovered that when I punched up XMX 2, I got a “No Signal” message and was then kicked back to the channel lineup–a very different channel lineup. Hmm.

I then manually searched for the station and, causing more havoc on the streets than an expectant husband on a cell phone driving his wife to the hospital in a stick-shift, discovered that XMX was no more.

Yay verily, it has finally happened: without any kind of advance notification (save for talk of the “potential merger”), XM and Sirius have joined forces. And I’m none too happy about it–at least for the moment.

Upon further (and not-too-thorough) review, I noticed that many of my favorite presets have either been moved, renamed or in some cases, eliminated altogether. This rather sucks because now I have to sit down and give each station a listen and decide if I want to bookmark it because, quite frankly, the descriptions aren’t all that great on this PDF.

So gone are the channels I’ve known by name such as Lucy, Ethel, Fred and Squizz. In exchange for those, XM subscribers now get much lamer substitutes, 24/7 channels dedicated to Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC and The Grateful-Fucking-Dead, and some bullshit channel called Margaritaville. (An aside: I despise Jimmy Buffett greater than the fury of a thousand asteroids hurtling relentlessly towards planet Earth. And while I’ll stop short of calling him an asshole, I think his music–and this may sound physically impossible–both sucks and blows.)

Also gone is Caricia 93, a station I had just started getting into, which played old-school Spanish “romanticas.” Chrome 83, XM’s disco/dance channel, has also been axed. Ay caramba.

And I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this in any other posts, but I’m not a fan of Sirius. I had the chance to extend my 6-month trial on a few new vehicles I’d purchased but opted for ol’ reliable XM instead. Sirius’ catalog seemed lacking at best and one way to prove this was (is?) to listen to their Kids Stuff channel–now called Kids Place Live–and count how many times Laurie Berkner was (is?) played in an hour. Seriously, it was (is?) that bad.

Alas, I knew this was going to eventually happen. It was evident these past few weeks when stations began to broadcast their “off the air” recording as well as being generically referred to as “Sirius/XM radio.” But I don’t think any of us satellite radio subscribers were truly prepared for what we tuned into this morning. With the strangeness of it all I feel really alienated, as if I was shipped in a crate to an unknown city and state with only $5 to survive.

Maybe once I sit down and figure it all out I my mind will change about the merger. But as of now, I’m just one of the many that aren’t pleased.

Way to fuck us all over, guys. I wonder how busy their Cancellation Department is today because it may finally be time to buy that 120GB iPod Classic and load it with every-freaking-thing I own.

Seriously, a Grateful-Fucking-Dead channel? My God, man.

By the way, Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour is back on its original home at Deep Tracks. You now just have to adjust your schedule accordingly to listen or catch an encore.

UPDATE: Here’s my assessment a day after the merger:

Lithium is no Lucy and 1st Wave is no Fred. 1st Wave features a plethora of former KROQ jocks including Richard Blade and Swedish Egil but their delivery all sounds very canned. While I appreciate and even like their music selection, how many times do they need to play The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” That song SUCKS!

Alt Nation? Thar she blows!

Where in the hell is my Chrome 83? It seems to have been integrated into The Groove, which was nothing like the old Chrome. Gah.

I used to love XM Chill but I don’t think so anymore. Top Tracks and Big Tracks, another two of my favorites, gave way to Spectrum (blecch), Classic Vinyl (meh) and Classic Rewind (very good). They are nothing like the former, but I’m glad Deep Tracks is still around.

High Standards is now Frank’s Place Siriusly (get it?) Sinatra. I know people love their Sinatra but HOLY FUCK, there’s a limit! I think I’d rather stick flaming Q-Tips in my ears before listening to more than two of his songs.

The consolidation of Aguila, Caricia, and Viva into XM’s existing Caliente channel was very stupid. Each played their own type of music and cramming them into one station was a pretty narrow-minded thing to do. No song ever played on Caricia would be played on Caliente. Bring back my romanticas, you morans!

So as of now, I’m only real happy that Deep Tracks is still kicking, I like 1st Wave’s playlist, and the addition of Classic Rewind was nice. That isn’t quite enough for me to keep my subscription. Stay tuned for more assessments and my final decision.

I’m still scratching my head about Margaritaville and more importantly, how the hell anybody can listen to Jimmy Fucking Buffett–period.

Oh, and…

dead


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$8

This weekend I was starting to get calls regarding the delinquency–the lofty amount of $8 USD–of my XM Radio account. Apparently Ann had forgotten to send the full amount or something.

At any rate, it pissed me off. I’d been a loyal customer for years and now they want to start pegging me for a measly $8? Not only that, I had once called their so-called Customer Care line to pay for a year of service on two radios and they couldn’t even come up with the total. Evidently they don’t have calculators in India or Pakistan or wherever XM outsources this work. (I so wanted to ask them what they thought about the new Metallica channel and if they were going to buy the Death Magnetic when it came out.)

So in order to take care of my debt, I called their Customer Care line and waited for my options.

I was disconnected after speaking with one person that didn’t even handle my issue properly.

And the language barrier is always fun when you call them but at the same time, frustrating as Hell when you can’t make them understand what you want.

And that was part of my problem. For all the joy my XM Radio brings you, one call to their Customer Care line is enough to make you want to forget you ever had the service.

But this time I was on a mission: because they were after me for those stinking $8 when they weren’t eager enough to determine one year of service on two radios, I was going to cancel all four of my XM Radio accounts and just do without. That was really going to show them. Yeah, it was.

By Tuesday night I was online activating two of the four radios I had canceled on Friday night.

Face it, people. Terrestrial radio sucks ass–major ass. I mean, mondo-huge amounts of hairy ass. There’s so much garbage on it that the last time I listened to it on a regular basis was when I was using an empty FM frequency to transmit the XM signal to my car stereo (before I had a car with an auxiliary input). I had grown so accustomed to everything XM had to offer that living without it would be very difficult, especially when I had two unused receivers sitting around the house.

Besides, Anthony missed his XM Kids on Channel 116. (Note: SIRIUS’ KidStuff sucks. They only have something like 20 songs in their library and half of them are Dan Zanes.)

XM has had me and they still do. So I sucked it up and admitted defeat, but not before I went online and looked up a code for free activation and my first 3 months of service free of charge. Where’s your $8 now, huh?!

I’m once again proud to be part of the XM Nation and to pay for quality content, merger or not.

I just hope I never have to call them again for anything.

Downloadin’ Fool

I love my Pioneer Inno XM radio/MP3 player. I take it everywhere I go: train, work, car, etc. It just works the way it should.

Part of the reason I love it is because I can record stuff from live broadcasts and with the variety of music played, especially on Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour, I can listen to my new favorites whenever I like (limited to storage capacity, of course). There are, however, a few problems with that.

First, storage capacity. You can either partition the 1GB non-expandable storage to either 100% XM recording or 50/50 XM recordings/MP3 files. You have to give up one for the other.

Second, the XM is partnered with Napster. In a perfect world, you connect your Inno to your PC, open up Napster, find the song you recorded and purchase the MP3. So what’s the problem?

Napster’s selection sucks. Unless you’re in need of Britney Spears’ or Black Eyed Peas’ latest release, you’re pretty much out of luck. I think I’ve used Napster to buy two songs and neither were the aforementioned “artists.”

As such, if you’re storage space is dwindling down and you want to keep your recordings you can’t copy them from the unit to PC (that I know of). You have to either a) transfer them real-time to a PC or MP3 recorder or b) buy the songs elsewhere because, and I don’t know if I mentioned this yet, Napster’s selection sucks.

And that’s when you take into account what your time is really worth, or what I like to call the Free Gas Syndrome. (The Free Gas Syndrome dictates that anybody who makes more than $8/hr. and sits in line for hours for a “free gas” promotion is an idiot because they exchanged work hours for the sake of “free gas,” when they would have been better off going to work and earning money that would have gotten them more than one tank of gas.)

I tried to record some of them and realized that task was going to be tedious and time-consuming: recording, transferring, editing, etc. Not only that, some songs had drop-outs because of bad reception. So rather than waste my time I decided to start purchasing the songs–and not through Napster.

I’ve been using Amazon Music because I like that they offer DRM-free stuff. Should the day come when I buy a non-iPod player, I’ll have a collection of songs ready to go. I got most of them from here but what I couldn’t find I had to buy via iTunes.

Interested to see the list? Read on.

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