In the April 5, 2008, NPR episode “Doing the iPod Shuffle,” Keith Devlin explains that iPod users can change a setting in their iPod to make the “shuffle” feature truly randomize, and prevent the iPod from repeating songs. (I heard this on the NPR Technology Podcast.) My difficulty with this is that, after searching through the settings options on my 5th Gen iPod, I can’t find a setting that matches Keith’s description. It is possible to turn “shuffle” on or off, and choose to shuffle “songs or albums,” but I can’t find another setting option that affects how “random” the shuffle is and whether or not songs are repeated. Keith explains in the episode that TRULY “random” selections do involve patterns and repeats, so it is necessary to change random settings if you want to prevent songs from repeating before all other songs on your iPod have played. The problem is, I don’t see where this setting is available on my iPod.iTunes DOES provide a slider which lets users select how likely a song repeat is within a random shuffle. This option is available by choosing the menu iTunes – Preferences – Playback:

Smart shuffle in iTunes

It is not clear to me that this “smart shuffle” feature affects playback on iPods you have synchronized to your iTunes library, however. It appears this smart shuffle just affects playback within iTunes. It also appears that “smart shuffle” settings do not necessarily prevent repeats as you are playing your entire iTunes library on shuffle, it just reduces the chance you’ll hear a song by the same artist in a row.The best way to satisfy a desire to listen to random songs on an iPod without repeats, apparently, is to create “smart playlists” in iTunes. Maximum Aardvark posted a series of suggestions in 2005 about creating smart playlists which sound reasonable. In addition to creating playlists containing songs with desired attributes, iTunes permits users to create playlists of songs which have not been listened to in a specified period of time, like the past month:

iTunes Smart Playlist example

I’ve dabbled with smart playlists a bit, but generally choose “shuffle” within defined playlists I’ve created, or sometimes “shuffle” my entire iPod library but manually skip podcasts and audiobooks when I’m wanting to listen to music. If you want to continually refresh the music on your iPod and keep listening to stuff you haven’t heard for a long time, it is important to frequently sync your iPod so iTunes remains “updated” about songs you have or have not listened to away from your computer.Has anyone found a setting on the iPod or within iTunes which addresses the “don’t repeat during a shuffle” issue, other than using a smart playlist? I certainly may be missing something here, but it doesn’t appear that preference setting is selectable on the iPod, instead it is available (sort-of) within iTunes preferences.

Playing an iPod with a smile

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