More on generating random numbers

Two dice
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

The very first program I wrote in any programming language was sometime in October 1976. It was in BASIC and it had this line or something very similar. Even then I was into random numbers. I know, uppercase!


I’ve been writing small utility that I’ll publish in a few days. It’s 100% in C and I decided instead of using srand(time(null)) for generating random numbers, I’d use something with a bit more oomph. That something is a library called sodium. Using it for just generating random numbers is a bit overkill. But it has the benefit that the random numbers are good enough random to be used in cryptographic code. Not all random number generators are good enough. This one is.

And it’s easy enough and adds just one dll, or you can compile it statically. I’ll do that once I figure it exactly which Visual Studio settings to change.

It takes just one include –

#include <sodium.h>

Then one call to initialise it.

 int i = sodium_init();
 if (i<0 ) {
   error("Unable to initialise sodium library. Error = ",inttoa(i) );

After that you can call one of several functions. Here’s an example from my code. It fills a 64 byte key with the numbers 0-63 but shuffled like cards.

    typedef char key[64];
    key _key;
    uint32_t ival;
    int i,index1,index2;
    for (i = 0; i < 63; i++) {
        _key[i] = i;
    for (i = 0; i < 1000; i++) {
        do {
            index1 = randombytes_uniform(64);
            index2 = randombytes_uniform(64);
        } while (index1 == index2);
        ival = _key[index2]; // swap two indices
        _key[index2] = _key[index1];
        _key[index1] = ival;

The do loop (how often do you actually see those used in code!) generates two indexes in the range 0-63, making sure that they are not the same. It then swaps the two values at those indexes, and does this 1,000 times. It’s very similar to card deck shuffling code.

Do you know how long it would take you to work through all the combinations of 64 numbers this way? IF you could do a million a second, it would take you 1.27×1083 seconds or 4.02×1075 years! Or to make it more meaningful it’s this large! 4.02,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That’s approaching (but still far far off) the time for the heat death of the universe which is estimated at 10100!

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