Samsung Blu-ray Player boot loop caused by a single XML file

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It has almost been a month since Samsung Blu-ray DVD players and entertainment systems all over the world suddenly started randomly crashing and rebooting over and over again. Although Samsung's response did come swiftly, it was a solution few probably wanted to hear. They basically needed to send in their device for Samsung to service and fix. No other solution was possible as it needed low-level hardware access that few people will even know how to do. All of these thanks to a single file that is designed to respect users' privacy.

Like almost any Internet-connected device these days, Samsung's Blu-ray players are programmed to log users' activities and send this telemetry data back to Samsung in the name of improving Samsung's products and services. It is, of course, legally obligated to ask users' permission first and limit what the devices log. These are defined in an XML-based logging policy file, according to a Register reader, that is downloaded periodically. It is also the root cause of this whole inescapable situation.

Long story short, the latest version of that particular file is formatted correctly but Samsung's firmware on its Blu-ray players may not have been coded properly to handle something as simple as a blank list. This causes the player's main software to crash, which in turn makes the device reboot. But since that logging policy file is read every time the system starts up, the system tries to parse it again, fails, and crashes all over again.

The problem can't simply be fixed by a firmware update since the system never gets that far into the boot process to download and install new software. The file can't also be replaced by simply plugging in a USB drive either. The only way to remove the file would be to remove it from the player's flash memory, which involves soldering wires and other things consumers normally don't do with their electronics.

Samsung has reportedly already replaced the XML logging policy file on its servers a week after the issue popped up. It may save owners who weren't bitten by the bug but it's far too late for those who now have to undergo an inconvenient mail-in repair process at an inconvenient time.