[kwlug-disc] Hardware Random Number Generators

Khalid Baheyeldin kb at 2bits.com
Fri Feb 10 12:23:53 EST 2012

On Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 11:23 AM, Paul Nijjar <paul_nijjar at yahoo.ca> wrote:

> A while ago I was looking for a way to generate lots of random bits
> quickly. I was finding that I was running out of bits and my processes
> were blocking.

What about cat /dev/urandom | your-program?

Would that do?

It turns out that some motherboards and CPUs have hardware random
> number generators (HRNGs) built-in. In particular, I had a bunch of Compaq
> Pentium III desktops with this functionality. Activating these HRNGs
> made a huge difference.
> In Linux, I was able to test for the existence of a hardware random
> number generator by looking for the folder
> /sys/class/misc/hw_random
> Those were the good old days. Now I am looking in Pentium 4 and above
> systems, and there don't seem to be random number generators any more.
> When I install the "rng-tools" package (which uses the HRNG) then the
> package also complains that there is no hardware support.
> My question: have hardware manufacturers removed this functionality?
> From all products? From consumer products? If I wanted to find some
> hardware that had this support what should I be looking for?
> Do you folks in KWLUG-land have this functionality on your machines?
> If so what's special about your hardware?

I checked the /sys/class/misc directory on several machines, from Athlon II
X4 to mid range Xeon s, and there is no hw_random on any of them.
Khalid M. Baheyeldin
2bits.com, Inc.
Drupal optimization, development, customization and consulting.
Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability. --  Edsger W.Dijkstra
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. --   Leonardo da Vinci
For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and
wrong." -- H.L. Mencken
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