Shopping for an iPod

Spring is here, and Jenny wants an iPod for when she goes for her runs. Until now, she’s gotten by with a Sony Discman, but it’s cumbersome and it skips. A portable MP3 player she can strap to her arm would be more convenient.

It doesn’t have to be an iPod, though, and it doesn’t need to hold our entire CD collection. She’d be happy with any kind of MP3 player that’s easy to load and easy to play, and has basic features like random play (something small and cheap would be nice). And she has no interest in playing DRM-crippled MP3s.

Any recommendations? I know what’s good about iPods, but is there a bad side?

Update: We bought a SanDisk m230 for $80 Canadian (I’d pay at least twice as much for an equivalent iPod). I unpacked it an hour ago; plugged it into a USB port; copy-and-pasted about 300mb of MP3s just to get started; pressed the PLAY button and that was it. No installation required. Easy-to-navigate menu system. I can play in shuffle or non-shuffle mode all the songs on the player, songs of a specific artist, album or genre, or create my own playlist. Took me about a minute to figure out all the options. Intuitive, real easy to use, no DRM crap and no installation of some junk software. It holds up to 512mb of MP3s. Other models in the series have higher storage capacity, but that’d be overkill for our purposes. I could have picked a flashcard model with the potential for higher storage capacity, but cheaper is the name of the game here, and it should do us just fine. It’s portable, especially with the arm band; it not at all cumbersome (it’s about the size of my thumb, only a bit thicker); and it couldn’t be any easier to use.

Thanks for the recommendations.

2nd Update (April 29/06): The player has been working almost perfectly since we got it. All the good things I reported about it are still good. We did have one problem, however, and I’m reporting it here for those who are having the same problem and don’t know what to do about it (SanDisk support is no help). Deleting files from the Sansa m230 MP3 player can be a problem. For whatever reason, when I hook the player to my PC through the USB connection, no MP3 files show up anywhere. But the player itself shows that there are indeed several MP3s still on the player. So it looks like there is no way to remove the MP3s that were initially transferred to the player. I can add and delete new MP3s, but all those old ones are stuck there. SOLUTION: In your program list, under accessories, select “Command Prompt.” Type in G: (whichever drive your MP3 player is). Enter “Format G:”. If you get a message saying you have to “dismount” the drive, select YES. Then let it format the drive. That’ll fix the problem.