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Back in the white earbuds

So I finally replaced my stolen iPod with a 1GB iPod shuffle after altogether too much hassle with QBE’s dyslexic staff (I don’t know how else to explain their ability to turn $3100 worth of stolen equipment into a $1300 cheque) and a great deal of indecision as to which model to settle on. I have been variably ecstatic and frustrated with my decision ever since.

Decreased size and weight is obviously a big, big plus

The enforced scarcity of interface the shuffle proffers makes the experience very much like radio —well, radio with a skip function— because you’re no longer really in control of the lineup. I have, at various times, cheered the shuffle’s choice of long-lost and rarely-heard songs from younger days and cursed its inability to play exactly what I want when I want it to. Admittedly, I could construct intricate playlists or make better use of iTunes’ star-rating system (I don’t, of course; I might have to start), but the quick‘n’sure satisfaction of immediate fancy is definitely gone.

So too, owners of full-size iPods aren’t particularly worried if half their space is occupied by music they don’t listen to, but with a tiny device that deprives you of the godlike control of its bigger brother it is quality —not quantity— that has become the pressing issue. After a single day of use I went through my iTunes library and deleted almost 4GB of albums that were only there for completeness’ sake: albums I had absolutely no desire to hear but kept in the library in case anybody else wanted Simply Red’s Greatest Hits. When those tracks are given a very real chance of ending up in my skull thanks to the magic of Autofill, I think it’s time to rid myself of them.

Funnily enough, the choice of ‘play through’ or ‘shuffle’ is completely redundant when you’re using Autofill (you want to randomize the random?), but becomes very useful when you serve chaos with a side of order. My preferred method, similar to Matt’s, is to manually clear the shuffle, disable “Replace songs when Autofilling”, drag my desired tracks on board, then Autofill to plug up the remaining space. It helps me (for example’s sake) familiarize myself with the new Garbage album through repeated listenings, something I’d lose track of if I left it to fortuity.

In all, I’m over the moon about its size, weight, and the shuffle function (my 3G iPod didn’t have the top-level shuffle of its younger siblings, and I was always acutely aware of how much of a battery drain constant shuffling was with a hard-disk based player), but the lack of pure, unadulterated control is sorely missed… for now. I guess I’d better get used to the idea of giving chance a chance.