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17.10 Unix random number generators

The standard Unix random number generators rand, random and rand48 are provided as part of GSL. Although these generators are widely available individually often they aren't all available on the same platform. This makes it difficult to write portable code using them and so we have included the complete set of Unix generators in GSL for convenience. Note that these generators don't produce high-quality randomness and aren't suitable for work requiring accurate statistics. However, if you won't be measuring statistical quantities and just want to introduce some variation into your program then these generators are quite acceptable.

Generator: gsl_rng_rand

This is the BSD rand generator. Its sequence is with a = 1103515245, c = 12345 and m = 2^31. The seed specifies the initial value, x_1. The period of this generator is 2^31, and it uses 1 word of storage per generator.

Generator: gsl_rng_random_bsd
Generator: gsl_rng_random_libc5
Generator: gsl_rng_random_glibc2

These generators implement the random family of functions, a set of linear feedback shift register generators originally used in BSD Unix. There are several versions of random in use today: the original BSD version (e.g. on SunOS4), a libc5 version (found on older GNU/Linux systems) and a glibc2 version. Each version uses a different seeding procedure, and thus produces different sequences.

The original BSD routines accepted a variable length buffer for the generator state, with longer buffers providing higher-quality randomness. The random function implemented algorithms for buffer lengths of 8, 32, 64, 128 and 256 bytes, and the algorithm with the largest length that would fit into the user-supplied buffer was used. To support these algorithms additional generators are available with the following names,

 
gsl_rng_random8_bsd
gsl_rng_random32_bsd
gsl_rng_random64_bsd
gsl_rng_random128_bsd
gsl_rng_random256_bsd

where the numeric suffix indicates the buffer length. The original BSD random function used a 128-byte default buffer and so gsl_rng_random_bsd has been made equivalent to gsl_rng_random128_bsd. Corresponding versions of the libc5 and glibc2 generators are also available, with the names gsl_rng_random8_libc5, gsl_rng_random8_glibc2, etc.

Generator: gsl_rng_rand48

This is the Unix rand48 generator. Its sequence is defined on 48-bit unsigned integers with a = 25214903917, c = 11 and m = 2^48. The seed specifies the upper 32 bits of the initial value, x_1, with the lower 16 bits set to 0x330E. The function gsl_rng_get returns the upper 32 bits from each term of the sequence. This does not have a direct parallel in the original rand48 functions, but forcing the result to type long int reproduces the output of mrand48. The function gsl_rng_uniform uses the full 48 bits of internal state to return the double precision number x_n/m, which is equivalent to the function drand48. Note that some versions of the GNU C Library contained a bug in mrand48 function which caused it to produce different results (only the lower 16-bits of the return value were set).


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