iPod Shuffle Review

Last year I received an iPod Shuffle (4th generation) as a Christmas gift from my employer. I must admit it is truly an amazing piece of hardware! Absolutely amazing that they were able to squeeze all the necessary electronics, including 15 hours worth of battery, into such a small package.
But I'm afraid that this is as far as my praise for this little device will go. I know, I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Honestly, I will use the iPod while commuting to and from work on my bicycle. I have done so for quite some time.

The Software Is Just A Heap Of Crap

Since last year I am completely Windowless, at least my computers are. My house still has windows, just to keep the cold out and the light in. But on my computers I have converted myself to a very satisfied Linux user. And that is where it starts to go horribly wrong.

There are Linux tools which can be used to fill an iPod with mp3 files. However, none of them worked with my 4th generation iPod shuffle. Probably because it is too new. Apple deliberately keeps frustrating the open source community by constantly changing internal protocols.
If you've got it working on Linux, don't you ever connect your iPod to iTunes anymore, because a new software update will almost certainly break your Linux compatibility.
Any €10 mp3 player can simply be filled with music by dragging the songs to it. Not with Apple products though, they require a crappy piece of software called itunes, which is not even available for Linux. This is not Linux's fault, it's Apple's policy not to support the rebellious open source community.

To cut a long story short, here are a some reasons why I think the software of the iPod is crap:

  • You absolutely need to use iTunes to fill your iPod. There is simply no other choice.
  • It won't work on Linux.
  • You can't simply drag and drop mp3 files to your iPod.
  • iTunes is a mess, clearly targeted for paid content. This is probably why iTunes is mandatory. Apple wants to know what you're playing and wants to sell you their content at ripoff prices.
  • You can't use your iPod as a USB drive. For instance, I can't connect it to my car stereo through USB. Any €10 mp3 player can, the iPod can't.
  • You can't copy songs from the iPod back to a computer.

On my way to work and back I have noticed that the random play feature of the iPod Shuffle is not too good either. I've noticed, on several occasions, that the songs played on my way back were exactly the same songs that I've heard in the morning on my way to work, only in the reverse order.
It was a random thing and I have never been able to reproduce it. But it happened, multiple times.

Work Around

After trying to find a suitable Linux program I decided to give up. All attempts failed and resulted in the iPod to tell me to sync my iPod with iTunes. Maybe there will be a solution for this type of iPod in the next couple of months, but I'm not going to wait for that.
Especially for these kinds of situations I keep a virtual XP machine handy. I simply installed iTunes on this virtual XP machine, only to copy my music selection to the iPod. Thanks a lot Apple.


Here are some very good reasons why I am not an Apple fan boy. At least they are good enough for me.

  • I prefer to make my own choices, thank you very much.
  • I don't need Apple to tell me what I like.
  • I don't need Apple to tell me what to do.
  • I am perfectly capable of putting mp3 music on an external drive or mp3 player on my own.
  • I don't need the help of a crappy, highly unintuitive piece of software called iTunes, which is not even available for my operating system.
  • I don't like Apple to eavesdrop on my music preferences.
  • I would never, ever spend one cent on music through stores like iTunes. I still prefer to really own the CD.

I have used the iPod almost daily during my commute for quite some time, with a relatively fixed collection of music on it. However this lesson teaches me that I will never buy an other Apple product which requires the use of iTunes and that includes iPads and iPhones. The only thing I will ever own that starts with i, is a Toyota Aygo.