I'm Now an XM Devotee

The head unit I put in my truck supports an XM tuner, and I was in an electronics store on Black Friday, so I asked about how much it would cost to add XM to my truck. Turns out I needed to spend an additional $100 on equipment (antenna, tuner box, interface box, etc.), plus the activation and subscription fees. So I bought the equipment and headed home with it. Getting XM installed in an XM-ready radio is a big pain in the ass. There's a box about the size of two cigarette packs side by side, which plugs into the antenna. It needs to go in a well-ventilated area and not be installed on top of carpet, so there goes most of the potential locations you might think to mount it. I ended up mounting it in a small compartment under the big armrest console, stripping out a small patch of carpeting inside the compartment. From there, you have to run the antenna outside the vehicle. I ran my wires through the main rubber grommet in the firewall, up next to the driver's side fender, and underneath the weather stripping between the windshield and the door. The antenna then mounts magnetically to the roof.

Then there's the interface box, which is about the size of a pack of cigarettes and sits between the first box and the head unit. I mounted this with double-sided tape behind the dash, on top of the dash compartment I stick change in. There are a lot of cables involved - I also put in a selector switch I bought from Radio Shack, so I can switch between XM and my iPod by pushing a button.

Once all this was installed, however, I really dug the content offering from XM. I was having a big problem tuning in Air America on WLIB 1190 in the city. Now it comes in crystal clear over XM. I'm also listening to the comedy channel and some of the rock stations, particularly the one that plays deep album tracks and other stuff you don't normally hear on the radio.

I like that there's no static and no signal fade. Just keep a clear line to the sky and everything's cool. Speaking of which, I went under the ATM thing at the bank and my head unit started blinking [No Signal], but the listening was strangely uninterrupted.

I think I could get used to this. The only complaints I have are the installation headache and XM's website, which hosts what is arguably the worst e-commerce process I have ever seen. The activation process crashed my browser TWICE, and when I rebooted, the system didn't remember any of my information and made me resubmit - but I couldn't use the same e-mail address. It dead-ended, saying something to the effect of "Same e-mail address already exists in system." Thankfully, I had multiple e-mail addresses I could use.