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  #1  
Old 01-29-2015, 07:53 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Car stereos and "random" shuffling from MP3s on flash drives

I don't know if this is a universal problem, but I'm in a carpool and the problem happens in one form or another in all 3 cars -- a Chevy, a Toyota and my own Mazda.

The problem is that random shuffle ... isn't. In my car, though there are several thousand tracks on the drive, the player chooses about 2 dozen seemingly random songs, and then goes for its favorite -- Tom Petty. It plays every Tom Petty song I have, then goes back to some random tracks, then plays every Tom Petty song I have, etc.

The other vehicles don't have a Tom Petty fixation, but they have their own issues, which is that they will only cycle through a few dozen songs and repeat them, though they have thousands of tracks to choose from.

So my best guess is that the stereos just can't cope with those large numbers of songs in a drive folder. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

Also, does anyone know of a 3rd party stereo specifically designed to address this issue? Right now I'm avoiding it by running my iPod headphone outlet into my stereo aux in, but it's not a satisfactory permanent fix. I'd like to replace the stereo but I want to do with some confidence that some design issue won't give me the same problem.
  #2  
Old 01-29-2015, 09:26 AM
jz78817 jz78817 is offline
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is it possibly only shuffling the contents of one folder?
  #3  
Old 01-29-2015, 09:48 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
is it possibly only shuffling the contents of one folder?
No. The problem, I think, is that there are maybe 3,000 tracks in the one folder.

I looked at some other sites, and this is apparently a very common problem. The reasons for it seem to boil down to two main ones; a poor shuffling algorithm, or insufficient memory to maintain a list of the tracks to shuffle (which is more or less what I was thinking), or both.

Unfortunately I haven't seen a single piece of information about specific models of stereos that are designed to fix this.
  #4  
Old 01-29-2015, 10:01 AM
buddha_david buddha_david is offline
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Your car stereo has become self-aware and likes Tom Petty. Seriously, I used to own a ten-disc CD changer which did this, except its favorite was Robert Plant. It didn't matter which slot the CD was in, the stereo would always play the hell out of the Plant CD once it found it. Freakishly, if I replaced Robert Plant with something else, it would refuse to select that disc at all -- as if the stereo was "pouting" or something.

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Originally Posted by Boyo Jim View Post
So my best guess is that the stereos just can't cope with those large numbers of songs in a drive folder. Can anyone confirm or deny this?
I've noticed this does happen a lot. Whether its pr0n clips or music files, having lots of them in the shuffle folder will cause the program to select "favorites" which always come up, while the others get ignored. Adding or deleting mp3s or pr0n will usually change the program's list of favorites, though some files always get lost in the shuffle. The reason is probably as you say, a poor shuffling algorithm -- it's well known that computers have a difficult time doing anything that's completely random.
  #5  
Old 01-29-2015, 10:03 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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I'm not holding out for perfect randomness, just something not terrible.
  #6  
Old 01-29-2015, 10:29 AM
Smeghead Smeghead is offline
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There's a common fallacy that a truly random shuffle would tend to play each and every track at roughly the same frequency. This isn't true. Instead, you get a bell curve. A few tracks are almost never played, a few get played a LOT, and most fall somewhere in the middle. I remember reading somewhere that Apple had to tweak their iPod algorithm to get a shuffle that was actually less random, but which "felt" more correctly random.

Now, it sounds like whatever is going on with your car stereo is a defect beyond just this simple fact, but I like the fact, and so I pass it on.
  #7  
Old 01-29-2015, 10:33 AM
CurtC CurtC is offline
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I had one of the early DVD players that could also play MP3s from a data CD. However, there was a limitation on the length of the file name, and any file over this limit would never be played. I was using iTunes to rip the files from CDs, and it would build the file name from the artist, song title, album, and track number, so many of them were over the limit.

Could it be that your Tom Petty files have shorter file names that are under a limit?
  #8  
Old 01-29-2015, 10:37 AM
BubbaDog BubbaDog is offline
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I noticed this on a very long trip I took in a late model Nissan pathfinder. It's system had the ability to control an IPOD. I set it to play random songs from the IPOD (I assumed that the IPOD contained the randomizing element but it could have been the Pathfinder's system in control).

The IPOD had 930 musical selections on it. Less than 50 of them were from stand up comedy albums. It had a variety of Blues, Rock, Country, Hard Rock, and Metal on it.

In the span of 30 hours of listening time it played every one of the comedy clips, some twice. It never once selected a song from the Heavy Metal list. It seemed to love anything by comedian Kathleen Madigan, Joe Bonamassa and the one friggin Christmas album accidentally left on the IPOD.

It played two songs off of 7 Clapton albums. One hard rock Album by Halestorm was untouched.

Near the end of the trip it got to be a game for us to recall missed albums that we knew were on the IPOD.
  #9  
Old 01-29-2015, 10:43 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CurtC View Post
I had one of the early DVD players that could also play MP3s from a data CD. However, there was a limitation on the length of the file name, and any file over this limit would never be played. I was using iTunes to rip the files from CDs, and it would build the file name from the artist, song title, album, and track number, so many of them were over the limit.

Could it be that your Tom Petty files have shorter file names that are under a limit?
It's possible, but it doesn't explain why it plays all of them in a row, and then goes back to more seemingly random choices.
  #10  
Old 01-29-2015, 01:44 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is online now
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Are these stock stereos and which iPod?

I have an iPod Classic with... 13,730 songs and everything is random. The stereo is an aftermarket Sony. When it does a weird trend I'm pretty sure that it is being random.

Are the songs on a particular playlist? Also, which Petty songs? It wouldn't happen to be the same album? When my stereo ends a playlist, it always plays "Here Comes the Sun." And that's because it defaults to sorting by album and Abbey Road is the highest alphabetically.
  #11  
Old 01-29-2015, 02:41 PM
icbm icbm is offline
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I had the bright idea of getting a very large USB flash drive for cheap and putting every digital song I have onto it rather than leaving an ipod in the glove box. My 2014 Subaru's factory stereo plays about fifty of the 4000 songs on the memory stick. I think the stereo unit either can't read some (most?) of the files or the algorithm is not very good.

Also, when its in RANDOM ALL mode it can't go back to the previous song. If you press the track back button it replays the current song from the beginning. You can only skip ahead.
  #12  
Old 01-29-2015, 02:54 PM
BubbaDog BubbaDog is offline
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I'm using an iPod touch that I bought last summer 2014. I believe it was the latest version.

I was using a flash drive in my car but it the stereo firmware would only do a limited amount (It could read 64 GB flash but truncated the file list). I could only listen artists alphabetically below the letter "M"

The nice thing about the iPod connection was that the car's stereo could access menus so I could select by artist, album, song list, or genre. It even displayed the cover art on the navigation panel.

It is a great system with the exception of the random feature. Given the fact that it's trying to randomize nearly 1000 selections its not surprising that it comes out weird.
  #13  
Old 01-29-2015, 04:32 PM
SpeedwayRyan SpeedwayRyan is offline
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I think the limitation is usually the number of files per folder that the system can "see"...sometimes restructuring the folder system can make things work a little better.

If there's a limit on the number of files it can handle, a certain amount of files are essentially invisible to the stereo, so it won't include those in the random mix.

Here's an example from a Sony aftermarket stereo:

Quote:
The maximum number of files and folders on the USB device that can be read by this model of car stereo receiver (see the Products section below) are as follows:

USB Mass Storage / Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) device:

Maximum hierarchy: 8 (including ROOT directory)
Maximum number of folders: 128
Maximum number of files: 500 files (per folder)
So it might not see certain folders if you have too many, and it might not see certain files in a folder if you have too few folders.
  #14  
Old 01-29-2015, 06:30 PM
HowSoonIsThen HowSoonIsThen is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyo Jim View Post
I'm not holding out for perfect randomness, just something not terrible.
Well, why not delete the Tom Petty songs then?
  #15  
Old 01-29-2015, 06:45 PM
Duckster Duckster is offline
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Ah, don't sweat the petty stuff.

  #16  
Old 01-29-2015, 06:55 PM
GreasyJack GreasyJack is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by icbm View Post
I had the bright idea of getting a very large USB flash drive for cheap and putting every digital song I have onto it rather than leaving an ipod in the glove box. My 2014 Subaru's factory stereo plays about fifty of the 4000 songs on the memory stick. I think the stereo unit either can't read some (most?) of the files or the algorithm is not very good.

Also, when its in RANDOM ALL mode it can't go back to the previous song. If you press the track back button it replays the current song from the beginning. You can only skip ahead.
I've got (presumably) that same radio in my Subie and gawd is the USB music interface terrible. However, I know that at least with the 500-odd songs I've got on my thumb drive it is shuffling through all of them only because the folder browsing interface is so goddawful that if I want to listen to something specific I just put it on random and click forward until it comes up. It always eventually does although it does seem like it hangs out in a specific artist sometime.

I do have a hare-brained completely unfounded theory that the random function on that and other car stereos will only jump a certain number of folders at a time which might tend to keep the same artist coming up. So if you've got, like 200 albums on the drive and 10 of them are Tom petty but the random function will only jump 5-10 folders per time, it might keep jumping around close to the Tom Petty ones until it randomly moseys down to somewhere else. But, again, completely unfounded and I have no idea why it would work that way that if it in fact did.
  #17  
Old 01-29-2015, 07:12 PM
Toxgoddess Toxgoddess is offline
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The correct answer was described by Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman in Good Omens where the demon Crowley noted that every cassette left in the car stereo eventually mutated into Best of Queen. It didn't matter what cassette was loaded - they all eventually suffered the same fate. iPODs are subject to the same laws of causation, entropy and damnation as cassettes, so all tracks eventually mutate into whatever 70's classic rock anthem that is the animating spirit of your car.
  #18  
Old 01-29-2015, 07:39 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Having now been to 2 car stereo stores and gotten no satisfactory solution, I am escalating this issue to the Pitting it deserves.
  #19  
Old 01-29-2015, 08:32 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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I've noticed that my Android music player has been playing a lot of tracks from a set of albums, along with some more random stuff. The albums themselves move in and out of the playlist.
This behavior began after an update of the app.
I can speculate that the programmers decided that once you heard one song on an album, you really want to hear other songs it reminds you of, so that your happiness with the app will increase if this happens more often than chance.
I'd love to hear from someone who actually codes this stuff.
On an old Sony music player I had, the shuffle was set in stone. On this one it is dynamically done - if you go back and then go forward you get different songs.
  #20  
Old 01-30-2015, 03:49 PM
Gatopescado Gatopescado is offline
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I've long since given up on the "Random" feature on everything I own.
  #21  
Old 01-30-2015, 04:39 PM
gnoitall gnoitall is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duckster View Post
Ah, don't sweat the petty stuff.

And don't pet the sweaty stuff.

Actually, it may be perfectly random.

You can never prove that a random number generator for a range of, say, 5000, isn't working just fine just because it's only emitting "1" while you're watching.

You just have to be patient. You take it on faith, you take it to the heart; the waiting is the hardest part.

Damn. Looks like "shuffle" got stuck on Tom Petty again.

Last edited by gnoitall; 01-30-2015 at 04:43 PM. Reason: appropriate cartoon to illustrate
  #22  
Old 02-02-2015, 02:55 PM
SmellMyWort SmellMyWort is offline
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I'd find a Mazda forum and search out discussions about the stereo. Both car forums I belong to have lengthy threads discussing the stereo, what players work best, and good aftermarket options. If you can't find a good solution and if your car has Bluetooth you might also consider moving your music to a device with that interface. Then (I think) it would still be the device doing the randomizing (assuming it works better than the car) and the car just picks up and plays the signal.
  #23  
Old 02-03-2015, 03:39 PM
cantara cantara is offline
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As mentioned above, the random selection is performed after each song and therefore each song has the same chance to be played next...except the random algorithm is using a seed that has a high repetition factor.

To properly implement a random algorithm that users are expecting to hear, a playlist should be built using all the files only once and the playlist played sequentially. Some music players do this, but obviously not the ones in cars...ours has a high repeat factor as well.
  #24  
Old 02-05-2015, 11:04 AM
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Most mp3 shuffle algorithms do choose with replacement, rather than choose without replacement. That significantly reduces the apparent randomness of song play.
  #25  
Old 02-05-2015, 05:10 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is online now
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My stereo (well really the iPod Classic) appends track numbers to randomized songs, so after a long drive I can be on track #226. If I go back, it will replay the same songs again. This makes me think that it is not doing replacement. The only times it has played the same thing on the same run is if I have two copies (say from a compilation and the original album). I can't verify because, see above. It has played the original right before/after a cover before.
  #26  
Old 02-05-2015, 05:29 PM
Si Amigo Si Amigo is offline
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I thought that the iPod had a feature that counted the times you actually listened to a complete song and took that into consideration when it did random play. Maybe you are stuck in that mode.
  #27  
Old 06-04-2017, 04:00 PM
raddfam raddfam is offline
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Random Woes

I certainly feel Boyo Jim's pain. I too have fought this battle (~2014) and succumbed, but now want to open it back up again. Like Jim, I want names. My high-end ($1,100!) nav-head Alpine (circa 2014) has similar issues. To add insult to injury, I had been using a Garmin GPS with media play since 2005 that does a perfectly fine job of randomizing songs, and, yes, you can reverse backwards through the play list. The tap into my Ford's CAN bus was a bit difficult, but I was ultimately able to get hands free phone and true random music play through my stock Ford stereo. It is funny to me that a company that is focused on navigation absolutely kicked ass on than a company that is focusee on music entertainment! Let me emphasize that my Garmin device was 10 years older than the Alpine device, go figure! Annnnnd, in 2014, know that the high-end Kenwood nav-head couldn't even random play, which is why I bought the Alpine.

My feeling on this subject is that I should be able to jump in my car and have a fresh music lineup each time without touching a thing or resorting to any auxiliary MP3 player or my phone. It seems it should resume playing a pre-existing random playlist that is only regenerated when I choose to push random again. In the meantime, it continues to a truly randomly generated list that just resumes each time I jump in the car (my Garmin did exactly this).

And, no excuses, the algorithm is not that difficult. Just seed it with date and time and you will get a unique list every time, jeeeesh!

Again, please name names and let us know who (what stereo company) has solved this problem (other than Garmin unless they are now committed to and selling car multi-media systems!).
  #28  
Old 06-05-2017, 07:29 AM
The Librarian The Librarian is offline
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The way "random" is implemented in most soft/hardware is just not very good.

You'd be better off "randomly" renaming all files on your computer and playing that list alphabetically.


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  #29  
Old 06-05-2017, 08:01 AM
boffking boffking is offline
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Music shuffle uses a random number generator to determine which songs to play.
A random number generator will never be truely random. They require algorithms to work, and numbers generated by an algorithm will always have some kind of pattern to them.
  #30  
Old 06-05-2017, 09:34 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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While it's true that computers will never generate truly random numbers, they can still be very, very good at generating pseudorandom numbers. If you're trying to use cryptography to protect valuable secrets, then yeah, you probably want to shell out the cash for some specialized piece of hardware that produces true random numbers, but for just getting a good variety on a car stereo, unless the programmers were complete idiots (a possibility which can't be ruled out), it'll be plenty random enough. In fact, you're far more likely to have a problem with it being too random, because humans really suck at randomness, and so what we think "sounds random" is very different from the real thing.
  #31  
Old 06-05-2017, 11:46 AM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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I have a USB that is customized for this type of entertainment fun - it is a single folder playlist, with the metadata customized to the band name being no more than 8 letters and the song title no more than 12 positions. To be honest, they are mainly an aide memoire if someone asks me what is playing. The 200 songs are effectively my favorite driving music playlist. If I want something specific, I have another stick that has most of everything else I ave, and one that is all my audiobooks. [I have accidentally shuffled the audiobook one. I ended up with a chapter of Suetonius Lives of the Romans, a chapter of Agent of Change by Sharon Lee, a chapter of Pratchett's Mort and a chapter of Bujold's A Civil Campaign. As I was moderatly tired at the time [really long driving day] it ended up being a fairly existential experience.
  #32  
Old 06-05-2017, 11:50 AM
Channing Idaho Banks Channing Idaho Banks is offline
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I can't imagine why song randomization is so popular.
  #33  
Old 06-05-2017, 12:19 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Channing Idaho Banks View Post
I can't imagine why song randomization is so popular.
Because when you have tens of thousands of songs, you can't and shouldn't be picking individual songs while driving. Or even when safety is not a concern, sometimes you need a soundtrack for whatever you are doing.
  #34  
Old 06-05-2017, 12:53 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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That's an argument for playlists, though, not one for randomized playlists specifically. You could accomplish the same goal by, for instance, playing an entire album at once (and if your drive is longer than an hour, you can take a two-minute break to load up another one and stretch your legs).

Obviously, the reason why people hit "random" instead of doing this is just that they prefer it that way. Why? I don't know that either; I like hearing a whole album at once.
  #35  
Old 06-05-2017, 01:19 PM
suranyi suranyi is offline
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I could never get the random shuffling to work properly on my devices with thousands of songs. So I chose a different tactic: I play them in alphabetical order by song title. Not by artist or by album title, but by song title. This mixes them up enough so that they sound random, yet every song gets played.
  #36  
Old 06-05-2017, 02:27 PM
John DiFool John DiFool is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Obviously, the reason why people hit "random" instead of doing this is just that they prefer it that way. Why? I don't know that either; I like hearing a whole album at once.
I use a dedicated Sony portable music player, which gives me certain functionalities that my smartphone may not provide (such as a lyrics display, very important for me). I mainly do random because of the fun combinations that then result (a la aruvqan's audiobook experience). I might get say The Verve's All in the Mind, then the Moody Blues' Legend of a Mind...
  #37  
Old 06-05-2017, 02:46 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Since I started this thread I feel obliged to do an update.

I have a new Mazda with a new player since the first post. It does a much better job with no more Tom Petty fixation. I can no longer say that the shuffle mode sucks. However, sometimes after it's been switched off and restarted, it changes to another folder, or to another play mode like "repeat one song eternally." So I have to switch folders or change play modes or both.
  #38  
Old 06-05-2017, 04:06 PM
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Yet another theory:

Almost all programmers, especially ones on limited capability hardware, don't put much thought into things like doing RNG properly. They grab some 50 year old thing and throw it in without thinking because it's easy to find, small and fast.

But even bad old RNGs need good seeds. And lazy programmers are even more likely to completely ignore generating a good seed. Check out the problems with the classic middle-square method. So forget generating good seeds.

The result? Very short cycles and such.

Doing things right is fairly easy. But "fairly easy" is too much work for many people.
  #39  
Old 06-11-2017, 01:48 AM
emergententhusiast emergententhusiast is offline
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Random All on IPHONE 3GS used with a Pioneer DEH-X8600BT vs USB stick used with a JVC KD-R97MBS

Chiming in here with my personal experience.

We have a civic and an accord. We have had a Pioneer DEH-X8600BT radio installed in the civic for more than 3 years where I play music off of an iphone 3GS that is connected via USB. I use itunes to sync my songs to the iphone. I always use the same play mode of Random All in the civic. The radio coupled with the iphone does a very good job at randomizing all songs. I have never played music off of a USB stick in the civic. Considering I am in Canada, it gets cold during the winter causing the iphone's battery to die constantly because I keep the iphone in the car at all times (connected to the radio via USB.) The iphone will start once charged (normally after 10 minutes of driving.) It will play the same song once the iphone has booted but all I need to do is select the random option and it will randomize all the songs very well. During the summer time, I don't have this issue because the battery stays alive. This means that the iphone will continue playing from the last track and proceed to the next track. I really like the random feature because it's annoying to hear the same song multiple times when you have 13 gigs of music.

My accord does not randomize songs very well with my current setup. I installed a JVC KD-R97MBS in the accord 72 hours ago. I filled a 32 Gb usb stick with 7 folders of music totalling ~4000 songs in total. Any usb connected to this radio is rated to handle a Maximum # of 999 Folders, 999 Files/folder and 20,480 files in total. Clearly, my radio is not able to access all of the songs on the USB due to these Max limits because some folders have >1000 songs. My problem is even though, 95% of the mp3s are songs & the rest are Stand up sets/audiobook mp3s, I am hearing my stand up/audiobook mp3s 40% of the time compared to my songs and I am hearing certain songs more often than others. I have noticed that the songs I hear more often are normally sitting alone in a folder by themselves. It's possible that JVC's random feature will play the next song in the next folder and then continue to the next song in the next folder. Please note that I also eliminated any duplicate files on the usb stick using Duplicate Cleaner.

Considering I only installed the radio 72 hours ago, I still need more time to test why the random all function has been so bad in the accord compared to the civic but I think if you use an old ipod/iphone connected to the radio via USB, you may be able to get a better user experience when enabling Random All songs with an iphone.
  #40  
Old 06-12-2017, 03:36 PM
Doug K. Doug K. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smeghead View Post
There's a common fallacy that a truly random shuffle would tend to play each and every track at roughly the same frequency. This isn't true. Instead, you get a bell curve. A few tracks are almost never played, a few get played a LOT, and most fall somewhere in the middle. I remember reading somewhere that Apple had to tweak their iPod algorithm to get a shuffle that was actually less random, but which "felt" more correctly random.
I'm responding to a 2 year old post, but this is incorrect. When you shuffle a deck of cards and deal them, you don't get repeats, because once you deal a card it's no longer in the deck, and thus no longer available. A truly random shuffle of songs would work the same way. Mix up the "deck" and play them one at a time. Once the song has played, it's no longer available until the "deck" is exhausted and reshuffled.

Since it doesn't work this way on any player I'm aware of, it's really a misnomer to call it shuffle mode. It's just picking a song at random from the entire library each time.
  #41  
Old 06-12-2017, 04:15 PM
Jophiel Jophiel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug K. View Post
Since it doesn't work this way on any player I'm aware of, it's really a misnomer to call it shuffle mode. It's just picking a song at random from the entire library each time.
Well, it may be randomizing the list (minus whatever song is in its current memory from last time) each time you fire up the engine. Since you're probably not in your car for 5,000 songs worth of driving at a shot, it's more like shuffling a deck of cards and drawing the top ten, then doing that a hundred more times and looking at the distribution. It's legitimately shuffling but no one is sitting through the entire randomized shuffle.

Anyway, I only have about 1,000 songs on my stick (I'm such a scrub) but found it useful to have four folders of 250 songs each rather than bloating a single folder or two. Sometimes it sounds less than random but I assume that's largely a matter of confirmation bias and a tendency to skip past less favorable/"not in the mood" songs so I artificially mess with the songs I am hearing.
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