Random.org True Random Generator

Here’s another solid old reliable resource that I’m surprised I haven’t added to the Toolbox yet. Yeah, the site is very much old school and not much to look at, but who cares? It does its job, and in a smorgasbord of ways, many I bet you probably haven’t thought of. (“Hey, it does that thing. I want that thing!”)

What it does is generate true random data—numbers, alphanumeric strings, etc.—and choices. You see, despite what it says on the box in big bold letters, basic computers can’t really generate true random data/choices. Learned that back in college. What they can do is what’s called pseudo-random, since whatever random function is built-in is essentially a computer program, a mathematical formula. If you know or can figure out what that formula is, you can predict what it will “randomly” generate. Knowing that factoid doesn’t really give you a warm fuzzy feeling if you’re having a contest and want to generate a random winning number.

Random.org says the random stuff it pumps out is based on “atmospheric noise,” much better than the pseudo-random number algorithms computers use. I have no freaking clue if any of that is true or not, but hey, it sounds good. Let’s roll with it.

And boy can we roll with it! We can use it to pump out random numbers, character strings, lottery picks, calendar dates, bitmaps, do random drawings, etc. We can even get whole sets of them: It can generate, say, a list of ten thousand unique random alphanumeric strings of a specific length that you can give out to folks as IDs or use as random filenames or whatever. Neat! 

I was reminded of Random.org because of yesterday’s CodeImage post: I used real-world code for the sample images, code that happened to have real account ID strings. That won’t do. One was 32 characters in length. So off to Random.org to have it generate some random realistic-looking strings to paste over the real ones. Sure, I could’ve just used # characters (ugly) or just pounded my fist randomly on the keyboard, but where’s the fun in that? (Well, the pounding would’ve been fun, but I think the fragile electronics wouldn’t have been too pleased with that.)

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