Jaguar XJ Super Sport goes all Blue Screen of Death on us
So it came as no surprise that very recently, the Jaguar XJ Super Sport we were testing -- one of the most fastest, most thrilling, most technologically advanced cars on the planet -- suffered the dreaded Blue Screen of Death. Fortunately, that was the only kind of crash we experienced.
Usually, hitting the car's power button causes its beefy 503hp supercharged V8 engine to roar into life. On this occasion, the roar was replaced by an eerie silence and absolutely no response from the XJ's entertainment, guidance or instrument systems. Its 8-inch infotainment display and the foot-long computer screen it uses in place of a speedometer were both as dead as a dodo.
Our first instinct was that we'd exhausted the car's battery by watching too much Eminem on its integrated DVD player, so when the friendly Jaguar Assist recovery man arrived an hour after we called, we expected him to slip on some overalls and take a look under the bonnet.
Instead, we were told the problem was far more complex and to get to the root of it he'd need his laptop, some bespoke software and a wireless dongle.
So off he went, connecting one end of a cable to a USB port on his trusty Panasonic CF-18 ToughBook, and the other end to the XJ's OBD-II (On-Board Diagnostics 2) port on the bulkhead beneath the steering wheel. Once hooked up, he tapped a few buttons on the laptop's touchscreen and fired up Jaguar's bespoke vehicle-diagnostics software. The tension, from our perspective, was palpable -- diagnosing crashes in Windows Vista was certainly never this exciting.
Over the minutes that followed, the software analysed every one of the car's digital systems in search of a problem. The culprit could have been any number of things -- the Bosch-supplied, Linux-based infotainment system, the Visteon-supplied virtual instrument display, a heat-ravaged processor, an errant mouse somewhere in one of the car's hundreds of miles of wiring, or the dodgy contents of a CNET UK memory key in one of the XJ's two USB ports.
Like most computer crashes, the true cause couldn't be determined on the scene. Instructions beamed down from Jaguar Towers via the laptop's Wi-Fi dongle suggested further diagnostics were required back at the factory.
We weren't about to let the car go, however. We loved it too much and besides, we had a Car Tech video to finish. As luck would have it, we'd parked somewhere inaccessible by tow truck, so our engineer postponed the factory diagnosis, and attempted a quick reboot to get us back on the road.
Curiously, whatever problem caused the XJ to crash also caused it not to respond to the laptop's reboot command, meaning we had to treat this £90,000 Jag like we do our janky old HP laptop: we disconnected the battery, killed the power and restarted it manually.
It's important to stress that this sort of problem isn't restricted to Jaguar cars -- any automobile that relies on computer hardware and software is at risk of similar crashes.
We need only look as far as Toyota, which issued a software update to alleviate problems with its braking system, or Volvo, which recalled 26,000 cars worldwide due to faulty software that caused engine problems in its T6.
Your car could be next. One recent estimate suggests that the typical luxury saloon now contains over 100MB of binary code spread across 50-70 separate computers, each of which communicates over one or more shared internal networks. Something, somewhere, will inevitably go wrong.
Admittedly, we'd never trade a car's advanced systems to return to the dark ages. Electronic fuel injection, electronically deployed airbags and GPS systems with integrated satellite transmitters are all a part of our modern lives, but this sort of event raises the question: are we becoming too reliant on electronic gadgets?
What do you think? Have you experienced a similar crash? Are you worried about the influx of technology in modern cars? Let us know in the comments below then take a look through our photo gallery above to see how the drama unfolded.
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Great OS design :)
Monday, August 16, 2010
Have you seen a message like this on Facebook?
I just got the Dislike button, so now I can dislike all of your dumb posts lol!!
If so, don't click on the link.
It's the latest survey scam spreading virally across Facebook, using the tried-and-tested formula used in the past by other viral scams including "Justin Bieber trying to flirt", "Student attacked his teacher and nearly killed him", "the biggest and scariest snake" and the "world's worst McDonald's customer".
We've also seen slightly different wording - but pointing to the same scam.
Falling for any of these scams (which promise some lurid or eye-popping or exclusive content) typically trick you into giving a rogue Facebook application permission to access your profile, posting spam messages from your account and asking you to complete an online survey.
And the same is true with this latest scam, which tempts you with the offer of a "dislike" button (as opposed to the normal "like" button) so you can express your opinions on other users' posts, links and uploads.
If you do give the app permission to run, it silently updates your Facebook status to promote the link that tricked you in the first place, thus spreading the message virally to your Facebook friends and online contacts:
But you still haven't at this point been given a "Dislike" Facebook button, and the rogue application requires you to complete an online survey (which makes money for the scammers) before ultimately pointing you to a Firefox browser add-on for a Facebook dislike button developed by FaceMod.
As far as we can tell, FaceMod aren't connected with the scam - their browser add-on is simply being used as bait.
So, if you really want to try out FaceMod's add-on (and note - we're not endorsing it, and haven't verified if it works or not), get it direct from the Firefox Add-ons webpage, not by giving a rogue application permission to access your Facebook profile.
If you're on Facebook, and want to learn more about security threats on the social network and elsewhere on the internet, join the Sophos Facebook page.
Filed under: Spam, Web 2.0