MP3 Track Order Nightmares on MZD Connect

I have a 2015 Mazda 3 SP-25 which has been driving me nuts for some time now. Apart from its frequent habit of forgetting which track I was listening to whenever I start the car, it has been playing tracks in the wrong order this past year. I’ve only just now finally figured out why it’s playing tracks out of sequence.

The TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) summary is basically this: macOS somehow copies files to FAT32 volumes that won’t be listed in the correct order on other operating systems. This must have been a regression in recent macOS versions because I don’t recall having this problem a few years ago.

Here’s an example of an album that was copied to a FAT32 volume on macOS 10.13 “High Sierra”:

DOS window showing files in the wrong order

By using the command “dir /x” you can see the “8.3” compatible filenames listed as well, and you can see they are apparently fine, yet the files are not shown in the correct order.

If you copy this folder using a Windows 10 computer to the Desktop, delete it from the USB stick, then copy them back to the same USB stick, the files will be shown in the correct order:

DOS window showing files in the correct order

Here’s what the album copied by a Mac looks like in the Mazda’s MZD Connect entertainment system:

MZD Connect screen showing files in the wrong order

And here’s what the album copied by Windows looks like:

MZD Connect screen showing files in the correct order

I initially suspected randomly generated backwards compatible “8.3” filenames as the culprit, but they seem fine, so just how the files are not showing or being played in the correct order is still a bit of a mystery. The blame is mostly attributable to Apple for somehow writing files to FAT32 volumes in such a way that they are not read in the correct order. It would be nice, though, if Mazda could sort the file names alphabetically when MZD Connect reads the directory listing instead of just trusting what it gets from the file system.

So, at least I now have a solution to this constant source of irritation -i.e., copy all the files off the USB Stick using Windows and copy them all back again. At least Windows can be trusted to write files to a file allocation table that Microsoft (and others) invented. Apple obviously doesn’t give a toss, and unordered filenames is the penalty we must pay for flirting with a foreign disk format, sadly.

One thing is for sure, if/when I buy a new car, I will be making sure the entertainment system knows how to play tracks in the correct order. I’ll create two folders, one copied on the Mac and the other on Windows. Bonus points for any car which can sort filenames alphabetically/numerically in the dodgy Mac folder. Extra bonus points for any car whose entertainment system doesn’t forget which track number I’m up to when I turn off the car.

Oh, and my next car has to either come with no i-stop feature or have a master switch – that I only have to press once – to disable it! I’m so sick of my Mazda turning off the engine when I put the foot on the brakes! It might be a handy thing to have on all the time if you lived in a large city with traffic jams all the time, but not where I live.