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iPods and Random Numbers

Paul (and the NY Times) calls into question the quality of the “shuffle” functionality on iPods:
<blockquote>Just a thought, but maybe the shuffle software is poorly written. I’ve noticed this sort of thing on the iPod, but not on the Dell DJ, and I think it’s a bit more nefarious than this article suggests: When you start shuffling music on the iPod, it seems to return to the same artist and even album again and again for some reason.</blockquote> I’d be amazed if this was the case: every 1st year computer science student who took a class on data structures and elementary algorithm design knows about Knuth’s shuffling algorithm, and pretty much every piece of software that has any kind of random order functionality (card games, music players, etc.) uses it. I’d be blown away if they don’t.

Obviously, the quality of the random number generator comes into question, but even a poor random seed wouldn’t elicit the behavior you describe, since the full track list would be shuffled without regard to the meta data.

In other words, if the behavior he describes is more than coincidence, it would almost have to be the result of intentional stacking, rather than a poorly implemented shuffle, as I don’t think Apple’s programming team is completely inept.

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