Card Games, Personal Security and Random Numbers

There’s a dirty little secret in programming: generating truly random numbers is tough. When are random numbers really random?

Nearly everybody plays a computer game such as Solitaire from time to time. Have you ever had this deja vu feeling you’ve played this same game before? Did that initial “deal” look unsettlingly familiar?

Have you ever yelled at a computer game, “who shuffled this?”

My irritation with this led to remembering all the nasty little complications we’ll “overview” in this article.

There’s a reason for “bad shuffles.” To make each game unique, computers depend on random numbers.

If you don’t play computer games, you still probably realize security passwords are also just random numbers and letters. There’s a more serious side to this discussion. Random numbers are essential to secure password generation, encryption, and even national security.

The core idea to a series of random numbers is unpredictability. Knowing what one number is, should give us no clue what the next number will be.
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Spam-O-Rama

I’m training a new Spam manager program to block unwanted mail and content patterns, while “Trusting” mail from friends. For a while, this requires me to spend a little more time looking at my junk mail than normal. I’m proud to report: the quality hasn’t improved.

There are the obligatory messages inviting the reader to lengthen the male member — “Be the stallion you always wanted to be”, or to buy Cialis — “nitrates are also found in amyl nitrate or poppers“, the ad hints.
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Password ‘Explosion’

From BBC.org (2-19-07):

UN warns on password ‘explosion’ The proliferation of passwords is putting privacy at risk.
Growing use of the web is stripping people of their personal privacy, warns a UN agency report.
The number of passwords and logins web users need makes it inevitable they will re-use phrases, warned the International Telecommunications Union.
Re-using these identifiers puts people at serious risk of falling victim to identity theft, said the ITU report.

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