Pseudo-random Number Generators
A report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the
degree of Bachelor of Science
by Z. O’Connell (950786535)
Department of Information Systems and Computing,
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – Introduction 3
1.1 Problem Definition 3
1.2 Study Scope 3
1.3 Study Objectives 3
Chapter 2 – Available generators 5
2.1 Von Neumann mid-square 7
2.2 Congruential Generators 7
2.3 Feedback Shift Registers 9
2.4 Algorithm M 10
2.5 Lagged-Fibonacci 11
Chapter 3 – Analysis of random sequences 12
3.1 Statistical frequency tests 14
3.2 Non-statistical empirical tests 15
3.3 Marsaglia "Stringent" Tests 17
Chapter 4 – Conclusion 19
Appendix A: Evaluation 22
A.1 Project Overview 22
A.2 The Approach 22
A.3 Possible Future Work In The Area 23
Chapter 1 – Introduction
1.1 Problem Definition
There are many known algorithms for generating numbers which are,
or at least appear to be, random. There are also a large number of
tests to check that what is produced by such generators does closely
resemble a random stream. There is not, however, a currently freely
available suite of generators and testing routines allowing the user
to eaisly define new generators and testers for experimental
purposes. This report reviews the sources required for implementing
such a program and presents some background on the more fundimental
aspects of random number generation and testing.
1.2 Study Scope
This project studies the speed and efficiency of pseudo-random
number generators and tests used to eliminate "flawed"
generators. Methods for converting "flat" integer
distributions into standard real number distributions are also
briefly examined. The ultimate aim of the project is to produce a set
of random numbers generators of various types and a battery of tests
which can be used to "weed out" any flawed generator,
hopefully arriving at a single generator or set of generators for
various applications that are both fast and as random as possible.
Cryptanalysis of random number generators in general is too wide a
field to be able to study in detail in this project, so this project
will concentrate on the algorithmic and simulation modeling
applications of random numbers. Despite this, much of the source
material comes from cryptography primarily because most of the recent
work on PRNGs has been in that area.
The generators we study produce, in general, equally distributed
output between zero and a known value. Although mathematical
functions exist to convert this output into other distributions using
real numbers, such techniques are also not examined here.
1.3 Study Objectives
The aim of this report is to briefly summarise the sources of
information required to produce a suite of random numbers. It is not
intended that there should be enough information contained here to do
any theoretical analysis of generators or tests or to implement the
more complicated tests as such a report would be several times the
size of this one.
Generators discussed here are those directly relating to the main
area of study – uses of pseudo-random numbers in simulation modeling
and probabilistic algorithms. It is intended to analyse more
generators than those presented here in the second part of the
project in order to compare these generators to near-perfect or
"secure" (Unpredictable) but slower cryptograpic and
hardware generators, however such generators do not need to be
implemented as source code or generator output is freely available.
Chapter 2 – Available
Knuth  offers the only detailed published non-cryptographic
discussion on what a random number actually is, although much of the
discussion is now out of date. The discussion is, in any case,
mathematical and doesn’t help us understand what a random number is
at a fairly basic level. Most notably, his discussion makes no
reference to the use of random numbers for encryption, which is now
one the main area of research connected to random numbers.
A good definition  of a "True" random number
generator is that is should be "Unbiased, unpredictable and
unreproducable". As we are concentrating on probabilistic
algorithms and simulation modeling applications, we are primarily
concerned with the unbiased aspects of random number streams. A
pseudo-random number generator will always be predictable and
reproducable given knowledge of the algorithm and initial seed value
used. In both fields, we are not worried about the predictability of
an unbiased algorithm, and unreproducability can be a very
undesirable trait if a particular run needs to be repeated.
A computer, being a purely mathematical machine cannot generate
truly random number sequences. Instead, it has to rely on
mathematical ‘tricks’ to produce a sequence that appears to be
random. There are electronic devices, such as ERNIE and Rairfield et
al’s integrated circuit  based on "…the frequency
instability of a free running oscillator". These systems can
generate random number sequences which are dependent on entropy in
the environment and as they are not practically predictable, are
suitable for use in cryptographic systems or where predictable
numbers are undesirable, such as lotteries. They are not studied here
however as we are interested primarily in generators which are
implementatable in software. Cryptographic
generators are also not looked at as they sacrifice much of their
speed in the interests of security. Similarly, cryptographic
hashes of semi-random sources, such as the SHA hash of entropy gained
from hardware events used by Linux (See , also
any Linux machine) are also not discussed as they require OS-level
access to the hardware to generate the initial entropy and as such
can not be implemented portably.
It is very easy for anyone to propose a random number generator
without properly understanding what they are doing, as Knuth 
mentions, ("…random numbers should not be generated with a
method chosen at random. Some theory is required.")
so any generator which doesn’t at least have an analysis using the
stnadard tests isn’t discussed here. For our non-cryptographic
purposes, we require generators that are far quicker than these
cryptographic ones. There are many combination generators and
"shuffling" tecniques which are also mostly not discussed,
such as the McGill "Super-Duper" generator mentioned in
, as there are so many that it would take a long time to study
and discuss the relative merits of each. These methods are in general
much slower than a single generator and designed to "defeat"
cryptographic attacks rather than increase randomness.
One of the most important aspects of a
generator is it’s peroid and it’s tendancy to "degenerate"
to sequences such as all zeros. The period of a generator is how long
a sequence it generates without repeating. This is mainly a problem
with generators, such as the Von Neuman middle-squared method, that
use the output of one iteration as the "seed" for the next
one and don’t maintain any hidden "state". With such a
system, a particular seed will always produce the same output
sequence, and if that value reoccurs in the output sequence the
generator repeats. Evaluating the period of a generator with
internal state of more than 32 bits algorithmically requires a
prohibitive amount of memory (512Mb, assuming states that have
occurred are stored in an array of 232 single-bit boolean
values) and knowledge of the internals of the generator, so it is
difficult to do. Fortunatly, the serial test picks up on this well
and other tests tend to produce poorer results for generators that
have a low period or degenerate quickly so we do not need to test for
these attributes directly.
2.1 Von Neumann mid-square
The earliest proposed generator, by Von Neuman, is simple and
relatively quick but no longer considered suitable for any
application because of it’s relatively low period and tendancy to
degenerate rapidly. The basis of the generator is to take a seed
value, square it and take as many digits from the middle of the
number as required. Knuth  describes this method in details and
points out that in most (not all) cases that a Von Neumann generator
will loop after a relatively small number of iterations. Although he
gives a method for stopping a Von Neumann generator from looping and
gives cases with a very long period, there are generators which are
almost as fast which are for more random.
Paul & Balmer  discuss a modified form of Von Neumann
where rather than squaring a number, the product of two numbers is
used and the middle digits are taken but this "mid-product"
method is also flawed and biased in the same way as Von Neumann,
although with longer peroid and less tendancy to degenerate.
2.2 Congruential Generators
Congruential generators, those which in some way use the modulus
function, are by far the most common generators in use and are
discussed in every book on the topic. There are several types of
congruential generator available, however.
2.2.1 Linear Congruential
Also called a "mixed congruential generator", several
texts describe linear congruential methods in detail, although they
were originally proposed by Lehmer in 1948, although not published
until 1951.  Knuth (As usual) presents the best basic discussion
on this method, which is based on the formula f(x+1)=(a
where a, c and m
are constants chosen to give good speed and period. For this
but as Knuth shows it is a mistake to choose m
to be a "convenient" value such as 65536. Knuth  and
Banks et al.  go into quite some detail over the choice of a,
c and m
which are shown to be very important to choose carefully to get a
good generator. In practice these values are usually fixed in a
particular implementation as the potential to produce a very poor
generator by accidently choosing the wrong vaules is very high. When
analysing linear congruential generators each set of choices for
values is generally considered as a separate generator as properties
such as period and even the overall randomness of the output vary
wildly based on them. Schneier  gives a table of "good"
values which pass the spectral test, a partly-theoretical test used
to analyse the choice of values for linear congruential generators.
Because of their simplicity, linear congruential generators with good
choices of values are still considered good sources of random numbers
for non-cryptographic applications. The period of a well-chosen LCG
on a 32-bit computer is only 2D109
 however, so other generators are required for many uses.
2.2.2 Multiplicative Congruential
Lehmer, when he originally proposed a congruential generator,
actually gave a linear congruential generator but with c=0.
This "multiplictive congruential generator" is not often
used because computationally c@0
is trivial and greatly increases the randomness of the generator. 
It is used as the basis for other combined generators however, most
notably Wichmann & Hill , although they don’t say why they
chose multiplicative over linear congruential generators.
2.2.3 Additive Congruential
Additive congruential generators, sometimes called "Fibonacci"
generators, of the form f(x)=(f(x-1)+f(x-k))mod
m are mentioned briefly by Kleijnen and Groenendaal
 although are no longer considered good generators in most cases.
(The name Fibonacci is due to the similarity of the generator to the
fibonacci sequence with k=2 rather than any link with the
mathematician of the same name.) The origins of this form of
generator are unclear but Knuth mentions it as having been proposed
in 1950′s with k=2 and then
analysed with k@2
by Green, Smith and Klem in 1959. m=235
and k=97 is mentioned
in  as being a good version of this generator. If these values
give a good period and pass the standard randomness tests then this
is a very good generator as it is faster then even Von Neumann – it
is a single addition operation and a modulus that, on a 64-bit
computer, can be implemented in a single AND instruction.
2.2.4 Polynomial Congruential
Schneier  and Knuth  mention, unfortunately without
references for their source, polynomial congruential generators of
the form f(x+1)=(a f(x)n+b
Without knowing where these come from it is impossible to make a
guess as to good values for the generator. As with all congruential
generators, theory is required to select values to produce a good
generator. Although the spectral test (See section 3.4) could
probably be adapted to do this, such work is beyond the scope of this
2.2.5 Wichmann & Hill Combined
Wichmann & Hill  produced an combined generator based on
three multiplictive congruential sources with different periods.
(There is no reason not to use more source generators, but Weichman &
Hill state that they found three adequate to produce good randomness)
Although their original paper is very short (Just over 3 pages with
spacing similar to this report) and was initially only an attempt to
produce a fast, portable generator for Pascal they managed to find a
new form of generator that produces good random numbers. The main
attraction of this generator is it’s speed as it is designed with
microcomputers in mind. (Specifically, the PDP-11) For a congruential
generator, it also has a very large period (Wichmann & Hill claim
2.78D1013) which should be
sufficient for most applications. Unusually, this generator produces
real numbers between 0 and 1 rather than integers. The production of
real numbers appears too closely tied in with the theory behind the
generator to be removed, and this fact could slow the generator down
under certain circumstances as discussed in the next section.
Unfortunately, Wichmann & Hill don’t say what the resolution of
the output is (I.e. How many decimal places can be regarded as
random) which we will need to know to do accurate testing, so some
theoretical analysis of this generator is probably needed. A serial
test conducted on a generator with an assumption of more resolution
than is actually present will probably fail.
2.2.6 L’Ecuyer Combined
L’Ecuyer  produced what is now considered the best method of
combining linear congruential generators, and is the only
"non-cryptographic" generator Schneier  bothers giving
code for and the only combined generator discussed by Banks et al.
 L’Ecuyer’s generator has a far more detailed theoretical base
than Wichmann & Hill present. Although more complex than W&H’s
combined generator, it is still easy to implement and relatively fast
compared to some other generators. Schneider claims a period for his
implementation of "somewhere in the neighborhood of 1018".
This brings us onto the interesting question of speed versus
portability. Although L’Ecuyers period is much greater than W&Hs
period for most applications W&H is adequate and if it passes
randomness tests adequately there seems no reason to use L’Ecuyer if
it is slower. L’Ecuyer is more complicated however, so likely to be
slower but W&H relys on floating-point calculations, the speed of
which can vary wildly between different processor types. Therefor,
when considering the speed of generators during implementation they
will need to be tested on different platforms to gauge the difference
in performance caused by such details.
2.2.7 Inversive Congruential Generators
Although ICGs, which are essentially LCGs that use the
multiplicative inverse of f(x-1)
rather than the raw value, are usually ignored as they fail
the Diehard tests , Marsaglias implementation in the diehard
suite did not use the best values,  which highlights the
importance of choosing the correct values for a generator and the
fact that a specific implementation should be tested before use and
not blindly relied on because it implements a "known good"
generator. There appears to have been no "fixed" version of
this generator tested using the Marsaglia/Diehard tests so it is not
known if this generator performs well or not.
2.3 Feedback Shift Registers
The other major type of generator is the feedback shift register,
sometimes called Tausworthe generators. The origin of this generator
is unclear – some sources say it was proposed by Selmer in 1965,
others by Tausworthe in the same year. The generator works by taking
a single bit from the right of a n-bit
register, shifting the register right by one bit then calculating the
left-most bit based on the contents of the whole register. The main
attraction of this style of generator lies with the cryptographic
security of certain versions of FSRs and in it’s ease of
implementation in hardware. However, they are also very easy to
implement in software and fast so they are also valuable for other
applications. As with congruential generators, there is more than one
version of this generator.
2.3.1 Linear feedback shift register
The fastest form of FSR is the linear feedback shift register,
which uses two or more bits from the register XORed together to give
the new bit. Schneier  gives a detailed discussion of this method,
including details on how to choose which bits to XOR for maximum
effect. Schneier claims that a LFSR is non-random if large numbers
are generated although doesn’t give a convincing argument as to why
this should be and Kleijnen and Groenendaal  don’t consider the
LFSR flawed compared to congruential generators. There are certain
problems with this style of generator, most notably that the shift
register must be large compared to the size of output word to
approximate random output. It is also relatively easy for the output
to degenerate into all-zeros or other repeating patterns in a similar
manner to Von Neumann generators.
2.3.2 Feedback with carry shift register
Feedback with carry shift register generators are relatively
new and were devised for cryptographic uses so there is no study on
their practical use in non-cryptographic applications. The basic
feedback function is the sum of all the "tapped" bits plus
the carry register – that value mod 2 becomes the new bit, and div 2
becomes the new carry register.  Like congruential generators with
differing values for a, c and
m, FCSRs need to have any initial value tested before
use to check that they have reasonable period and don’t degenerate.
Schneier gives a table of "tap sequences" (Which bits in
the FSR need to be used) to give maximum periods – the maximum
periods are typically in the range 2n where n
is the size of the feedback shift register. This gives a maximum
period of 3.4D1038
for a 128-bit generator, which is certainly acceptable for most
2.3.3 Mersenne Twisters
Mersenne Twisters are a form of
generator proposed by Matsumoto
and Nishimura in  that, they claim, have the rather amazing
period 219937-1 and pass "several stringent
statistical tests, including diehard". They are based on
"Twisted" Feedback-shift-register generators that use
Mersenne Primes to produce longer periods (Most generators,
particularly congruential and combination generators use normal
primes or relatively-prime numbers to achieve a longer period) This
generator is very new (Less that one year at the time of writing) and
although apparently well received on the Internet, not discussed in
other works as yet. The algorithm on initial examination appears to
be quite slow but actually lends itself quite well to computer
implementations and general Internet research (Comments made on
newsgroups) suggest that it probably compares favorably with other
2.3.3 Other feedback shift register generators
The above generators are by no means the only FSR generators
available. However, they are the only two fast enough to be
considered usable for general applications. For example, the
FSR-based Blum, Blum & Shub generator is often used in
cryptography and considered very good but is far too slow for most
uses. [18, NEWS2/94061801.HTM]
2.4 Algorithm M
Algorithm M is a method originally proposed by MacLaren and
Marsaglia for combining two random sequences in a computing-friendly
(I.e. fast) way to produce a "considerably more random"
output.  It is named after it’s discussion in Knuth where it is
referred to as just "Algorithm M". Unlike combination
generators discussed earlier this generator is designed to work with
any sequence and not just congruential generators. Knuth mentions
that if the two source generators periods are relatively prime with
respect to one another that the period of the product of both
generators, and this is true in the case of most combination
generators. Knuth doesn’t actually offer a proof of this, it is left
as a (relatively easy) exercise for the reader.
The Lagged-Fibonacci generator is dealt with in great detail by
Marsaglia,  and as the name implies is closely related to the
additive congruential generator discussed above. The generator has
the formula f(x)=f(x-r)¿f(x-s)
where r and s
are the "lag" constants for the generator and ¿
is a mathematical operation. The additive congruential generator
follows this formula where r=1,
and ¿ is
addition followed by mod m.
Lagged-Fibonacci generators are typically dealt with separately from
congruential generators as the theory behind choosing the correct
values is radically different. Marsaglia goes on to show that
Lagged-fibonacci generators using multiplication are the only
non-combination generator he studies that passes all the "diehard"
 tests. However, it is not clear whether the comments in 
were made before or after this comment – see section 2.5.2.
Marsaglia also gives two combination generators in , COMBO and
NCOMBO, based on two specific cases of the Lagged-Fibonacci combined
using simple subtraction. Marsaglia shows that the result is indeed
more random as long as neither generator degenerates, based on work
done by Brown and Solomon and Marshall and Olkin, however the proof
is rather complicated. The theory is applicable to generators other
than Lagged-Fibonacci, and Marsaglia also analyses the McGill
"Super-duper" MCR/LFSR combination generator in the same
2.5.2 "With-carry" generators
A cross between the lagged fibonacci generator and the
Feedback-with-Carry-Shift-Register generators are the "with-carry"
generators, and although usually considered separately from
Lagged-Fibonacci generators are essentially of the same class.
Add-with-carry generators are basic additive congruential generators
that add in the concept of carry as used by FCSR generators.
Subtract-with-borrow and multiply-with-carry generators follow along
the same lines using subtraction and multiplication instead of
addition. Add-with-carry and subtract-with-borrow are not
particularly powerful generators, however multiply-with-carry has
been shown to perform well in tests and have a long period as well as
being very fast. These generators have been studied extensively by
Marsaglia in ,  and . Knechtel writes:  "The
best of [the multiply with carry generators] seem to pass all the
Diehard tests (See section 3.3),
even tests that many common pseudorandom number generators fail."
Little independent study of these generators exist yet, however
Marsaglia himself is bullish: "I predict it will be the
system generator for many future computers", and claims a
period of 2
f(x-1)+c mod 232, given if a
is chosen "from a large set of easily found integers".
Unfortunately, the comments above are not dated and the diehard
suite  has evolved over time; the tests the latest version
employs are no longer the same as the ones discussed in . As
mentioned in , Marsaglia didn’t examine this generator in paper
 which may mean he was unaware of it at the time.
Chapter 3 – Analysis of random
The descriptions of tests given here are necessarily brief – most
of them would take at least two full pages each to describe in
detail. The information here is meant to be sufficient to understand
the comments and discussion on the generator and to give the reader
some understanding of the analysis routines that will be written as
the implementation part of this project. When applying these tests,
it is important to remember that it is almost always possible to
construct a non-random algorithm which a specific test will not pick
up on as non-random – such an approach is not a proof that the test
does not work.
Formulae for the statistical tests and values of S(x)
(Needed for statistical analysis of the output results) for tests are
given, as these are often wildly different between texts,
particularly in the case of Kolmogorov-Smirnov, so "standardised"
versions are necessary for implementation. Where this isn’t possible,
due to the complexity of the equations or a requirement for lengthy
lookup tables, a specific work with good examples is cited. Most of
the tests here are "standard" tests used and discussed by
almost every basic textbook on the subject, so specific citation is
only given to unique points of note.
Knuth  points out that there is no such thing as a "Random
Number", as you cannot say whether a single number on it’s own
is random or not. For example, is the number 3 random or not? We
cannot answer this question. It is
assumed here that all the generators produce integer values from 0 to
r, as this is true in all but one case for the generators we
have looked at. Following on from this, is the sequence 3, 3,
3, 3 random? Possibly, as it is just as likely as any other sequence
of four numbers. When testing random numbers, we test probabilities -
a generator that produces many threes and few other numbers over a
long period of time is highly unlikely to be unbiased and, in
statistical terms, we "reject the hypothesis" that it is
unbiased. As Paul and Balmer  note, "You can try to be
too perfect. Genuine random sequences contain subsequences that are
There are several tests not considered here. There has been much
work published on the spectral test (Also known as Fourier analysis)
in many different forms however it has a theoretical base closely
related to choosing good values for linear congruential generators.
Theoretical tests have also not been discussed as they require human
(rather than algorithmic) analysis on the structure of the generator.
It is somewhat surprising to see that almost all the tests have their
origins in work done by Kendall and Babington-Smith in the 1940s and
that Knuth’s  work in 1969 is still probably the most valuable
text on empirical testing – Marsaglia actually refers to the standard
tests as "Knuth’s" (See quote in section 3.3) rather than
Kendall and Babington-Smith’s. I have limited statistical tests to
just the three most common which measure different properties of the
generator as any common statistical test could be applied.
In the interests of readability, the following notation is used
throughout, regardless of the notation used in the source documents
as almost every book uses different notation.
n – Length of random
sequence being analysed. (I.e. Number of values being analysed)
"Total number of independent observations" in statistical
r – Number (Mnemonic:
Range) of possible outputs. (For
example, r=65536 if possible integer outputs are in the range
Observed frequency of value r.
Expected frequency of value r.
F(x) – PRNG as a function, 0Tx<n
S(x) – C.d.f of expected output
p – Probability of a given
distribution output, calculated using S(x)
3.1 Statistical frequency tests
3.1.1 Chi-squared test
The Chi-squared (æ2)
test verifies that a random sequence is distributed as we would
expect. In all the generators discussed here, the output is initially
evenly distributed real numbers between two values. To do this, a
count of the number of occurrences of each value s
is taken, referred to as Os.
Using the equationwe
can measure the "goodness of fit" of a particular
generator. In all cases studied here, Es=n/r as
the generators raw output are all evenly distributed between two
numbers. Once we have the æ2
value, the value of p can be
calculated to find out how likely such a value is and therefor
if the value is "suspect" or not. Is it possible to
approximate appropriate values of p for æ2,
(p cannot be calculated
exactly) however the formula to do this is very complicated
and most mathematical libraries include code to do this as standard.
If only a "Fail" or "Pass" indication is
required, it is faster to use a table of critical values, such as
those given in most statistical texts, Most books on the subject
assume this is what is required, however for our purposes we will
need the actual values to implement Knuths suggestion of running the
Kolmogorov-Smirnov test on the outputs of many æ2
tests, as discussed below.
Knuth points out that applying this
test to a very large sample of output has it’s problems however, as
although it picks up general long-term bias in the output, it won’t
always detect what Knuth terms "Locally non-random behavior",
for example often-repeated sequences of numbers. These could be
picked up if they are frequent enough and biased heavily towards one
set of numbers, but they could easily be balanced out long-term by
other locally non-random behavior. Although we are constrained by the
general requirement that EsU5
for æ2,  it is best
to keep n as small as possible and repeat the test several
times. This applies to all the other tests discussed here as well,
although some tests such as the serial test produce a small amount of
output for a large r so there is only likely to be enough data
in even a large sample for a single æ2
When applying this test many
times on one generator, we need a method of measuring the output more
formal than simply the standard statistical "reject the
hypothesis" method, as with a large enough number of independent
tests this is likely to occur at least once. This also checks that
the distribution of p is reasonable – i.e. the generator is
"globally random". To do this Knuth proposes applying the
Kolmogorov-Smirnov test to the values of p. (See section
3.1.2) The æ2 test is
inappropriate for this task as it is not well suited to handling
relatively small n with infinitely variable real, as opposed
to a fixed number of integer, values. Other authors unfortunately
assume a single test and don’t discuss this.
It is important to note that æ2
requires independent tests. For example, if applying æ2
to the serial test in section 3.3, if c=2 and a=2, x
should be sampled as 0, 1, 4, 5, 8, 9… to avoid using any values
twice. However, Marsaglia  has produced modified versions of
many of the standard empirical tests which are suitable for running
with "overlapping" values.
3.1.2 Kolmogorov-Smirnov test
The Kolomogorov-Smirnov (KS) test is a measure of the maximum
difference between the expected and actual distribution. It is more
suited to evaluating real numbers rather than discrete integer
values, however it can detect non-randomness that æ2
fails to, so it is a useful test. This gives a formula for KS of
which like æ2 produces
a values which can be calculated to give p to see if the value
is too high or low. Fortunately, p can be approximated for
large n using the formula
Knuth suggests n=1,000,
although this only gives 2 decimal places of accuracy. With modern
computing hardware, n=100,000
gives a better compromise between speed and accuracy. (3 d.p.) This
does mean that a large number of KS/æ2
tests will need to be carried out for each generator unless a table
of critical values is used. (The same formula is used for
applying KS to KS results) There are many versions of the KS
test, so care should be taken to use
the correct tables/formula. Knuths formulae from  are used
here primarily because his descriptions on KS are better and he
presents the formula for S(x),
although the form of equations he uses are not the most
Algorithmically, KS is best calculated by ordering the data from
X1 to Xn
(Ascending order if S(x) increases as x increases and
vise-versa) and finding max(max(j/n-S(Xj),
(The c.d.f. for evenly distributed random numbers from 1 to r-1
is S(x)=x/r, 0Tx<r)
The requirement to order the data and the use of floating
point operations means that the test is slower than æ2,
particularly for very large n.
There is no reason however to use the same subdivisions of data that
æ2 uses, so it is more
efficient to divide the data into smaller segments then apply KS
again to the results.
3.1.3 Correlation test
Sometimes referred to as the
"serial correlation test" or "autocorrelation test"
when applied to random number theory, unlike æ2
and KS the correlation test (Specifically, the Pearson Product
Moment Correlation Coefficient) checks the relationship between
successive values – that is, it is dependent on the ordering of the
output values within the test set. The previous two statistical tests
are independent of ordering so won’t detect non-random sequences like
1, 2, 3… as long as the set has the expected distribution. Banks et
al.  and Kleijnen and Groenendaal  give a full description of
this test when applied to random number sets, and fortunately PPMCC
is a standard statistical test and details of it’s calculation don’t
vary between texts. The correlation test is not often applied however
as it measures the same properties as the serial test discussed in
section 3.2.1. (No source referenced considers both the correlation
test and the serial test)
3.2 Non-statistical empirical tests
3.2.1 Serial test
The serial tests applies the statistical frequency tests in
section 3.2 to tuples of numbers, (F(x),
This is equivalent to evaluating a generator with
so is unfeasible for c>2
for most generators. (Assuming an 8 bit generator, if c =4
then æ2 tests on 21
billion values would be required to satisfy EsU5.)
Although even books as recently as 1993  regard the serial test
even with c=2 as
computationally too difficult to carry out generally, modern hardware
should be capable of running tests in a reasonable amount of time.
Marsagla  proposes the "Overlapping
M-Tuple test", which is a variation of the basic serial test
with the m in the title being the c of the serial test,
using PPMCC to "modify" the output to be appropriate for æ2
tests despite not being independent values. Marsaglia analyses data
as bit-streams rather than discrete numbers and takes only three bits
of a number at a time for this test which makes use of a larger c
3.2.2 Gap test
The gap test checks the gap between numbers follows the expected
distribution, which Banks et al.  show is S(x)=1-0.9x+1.
As S(x) is non-linear,
it is necessary to vary the size of the frequency counts to satisfy
EsU5. For example, if
so E71+=5.1 should be used instead. Counting the frequency
of each gap size is algorithmically very easy and fast compared to
some other tests. Kendall and Babington-Smith’s original version only
counted the gap between zero digits  although with modern
computing it should be possible to apply this test to all possible
3.2.3 Poker test
There are two ways to conduct a poker test. Knuth’s  method
involves testing for two, three, four or five of the same number
recurring in sets of five random numbers. With a large r,
this is not really feasible however. (If r=65536
and n=100000 EpairY1)
The more commonly discussed method, such as in Banks  counts the
reoccurrence of the same digit within a random number. It is
important to note however that if analysing in decimal a number
produced by a binary generator, the first digit may not be in the
range 1-10 and the expected distribution should be adjusted as
appropriate. Although only mentioned in an exercise in  and not
discussed in detail anywhere, the same test could be carried out
using hexadecimal, octal or even binary digits instead of decimal.
3.2.4 Coupon collector’s test
The coupon collectors test evaluates how long a run is required to
get at least one occurrence of every possible number. We cannot apply
this test to all generators, as some may always degenerate or loop
before they generate every possible value and also requires a very
large sample set compared to other tests and may be very
time-consuming on slower generators. (For one output value, at least
r random numbers will have
been generated) Knuth  discusses this test in detail but other
books (Which all cite Knuth as a reference) have not mentioned it.
This is probably due to the fact that the coupon collectors test is
difficult to implement and, as Wichmann & Hill  point out,
measures the same properties as the gap test.
3.2.5 Run test
The run test as used by Knuth checks that the length of "runs
up" and "runs down" of random numbers matches the
expected distribution. The formula
to do this is somewhat complicated however, as successive values are
not independent of each other so æ2
cannot be used. Knuth gives formula, which are quite long
and involve tables so are not given here, which allow the calculation
of a statistic which can be subjected to æ2.
Kleijnen and Groenendall  state "We again use a æ2
statistic to test whether the generator is acceptable. The standard
however, does not apply because of the dependence between the
successive [run lengths]" but do not give the test which is
Kleijnen and Groenendall also have a
variation on this test of "Runs above and below the average"
which functions exactly as the name implies – checking that the
distribution of runs above and below the expected mean. (0.5r
in our case) This picks up generators that tend to produce long runs
of numbers higher or lower than average, something most other tests
are only slightly sensitive to.
3.2.6 Permutation test
Knuth  gives an algorithm for counting the frequency of
orderings of random numbers. For example, if using sets of three
random numbers (a, b, c)
together this test counts the frequency of each possible
combination of the three numbers when ordered, of which there are six
(3!) combinations. (a<b<c, a<c<b,
c<a<b and c<b<a)
This test, along with the Maximum-of-t test, isn’t even mentioned in
any other books or papers on the subject which may mean that this
test is no longer considered useful. Despite this, I can find no
reference that actually shows this specific test to be a poor test.
As with the overlapping-permutation test discussed below, it may
simply be that this test does not pick up any non-random attributes
not found by other tests such as the run test and serial test.
Marsaglia’s version of this test is the overlapping-permutation
test, which as the name implies is a variation of the permutation
test with overlapping sets of data. Marsaglia himself doesn’t regard
this test as particularly good: "[Overlapping permutation]
tests…are not very stringent; most generators seem to pass them…"
The maximum-of-t test, again only discussed by Knuth  tests the
distribution of the maximum of t
random numbers is distributed as expected. This is a simple and quick
test to implement although again there is a strange absence of this
test from other books.
3.2.8 Maurer test
Although often referred to as a "statistical" test,
Maurers test presented in  is not a general statistical functions
like KS or æ2.
It is geared more towards hardware cryptograpical uses, but it does
fail more modern flawed software generators that the earlier tests
don’t pick up, so it still useful in non-cryptographic software
situations. Maurer himself states that although the test is designed
to defeat hardware generators, a good software generator should
certainly pass his test. The basis for the test is trying to detect
whether a generator has detectable "memory" (That is, that
later values are based in some way on earlier ones) Maurer claims his
test will fail any generator that fails another test presented here
and although Maurer presents no empirical or theoretical proof of
this, although it is fairly likely to do this based on the nature of
the test. Being a comparatively recently developed test, there are
few good discussions on it’s relative merits, although it is
generally regarded as a good test.
3.3 Marsaglia "Stringent" Tests
In  and , Marsaglia presents a suite of tests apparently
of his own devising rather more complicated than those previously
studied, which are "more difficult to pass than [Knuth's]
tests that have become standard".
Although there is little independent discussion of these tests in
texts, primarily because they are significantly more difficult to
analyse that other tests, they are considered worthwhile tests. Each
test is discussed briefly, although the fact the formula presented by
Marsaglia are very complicated and the lack of independent discussion
on them means that descriptions are somewhat brief. Two of his tests,
the M-Tuple test and Overlapping-permutations are modifications of
the standard tests and have already been discussed in section 3.2.
Although proof of the tests is given in
most cases, Marsaglia doesn’t discuss why
this particular group of tests as a whole is useful, a discussion
which is lacking in most books as well. As more powerful extensions
of the "standard" tests they should perform well in
practice and passing these tests is considered a very good indication
of the suitability of a generator for non-cryptographic uses but it
remains to be seen if any of the more obscure generators and
particularly Maurer pick out poor generators that these "stringent"
tests fail to.
3.3.1 Overlapping-pairs-sparce-occupancy (OPSO)
OPSO is an unusual test that tried to overcome the problems of
requiring large amounts of memory and a large number of tests to do
serial tests with large r and
3.3.2 Parking-lot and lattice tests
This test actually applies a probabilistic algorithm of "parking
cars" in an n-dimensional
space and compares the result with one from a known-good random
source. (There is no theory to solve this problem that is not
probabilistic) Although suggested elsewhere, this is the only actual
discussion about a specific implementation of a probabilistic
The Birthday spacings test as
presented in Marsaglias paper appears to be related to the standard
gap test, although the description presented is somewhat confusing
and incomplete. Marsaglia appears not to have published a proof or
detailed description of it yet, only source code. Apparently, "…a
detailed discussion of the test will appear elsewhere"
although no indication is given as to when or where this might be.
Marsaglia’s description of the "ranks of binary number
matricies" test is also unclear, and his test results suggest
that this is not a powerful test as it does not fail a generator that
is not failed by several other tests. It is, apparently, designed
with simulation modeling in mind and the availability of source code
in  may make this test implementable, even though the paper
appears to give insufficient information for this.
Chapter 4 – Conclusion
At this stage, without any hard empirical results to refer to, it
is difficult to draw any conclusions, particularly with regard the
the suitability of the tests. All the tests discussed above are
"accepted" by the community as valid tests so, barring
implementation problems, none should spuriously fail otherwise valid
generators. There is some obvious overlap in the generators however,
particularly with regard to the standard "Knuth" tests and
Marsaliga’s work. No suite of tests would be complete without those
listed in  however, so they have been included nonetheless.
Most of the basic congruential and linear-feedback generators are
now considered fairly poor, so the most likely "winner"
(The fastest generator that passes all tests) will probably be a form
of Lagged-Fibonacci-with-carry generator or one of the two combined
congruential generators. Additive Congruential generators have been
neglected in recent studies and although likely to fail Maurers test
may just prove to be a front-runner despite their simplicity.
Lagged-Mersenne Twisters are too new to say much about, although they
have been reported to pass all the tests given here except perhaps
 Knuth, D.E., 1969, The Art of Computer Programming, Volume 2 -
Seminumerical Algorithms, Addison-Wesley
 Reif, J.H., Tygar, J.D., 1985, Efficient Parallel
Pseudo-Random Number Generation, pp.433-446, Advances in
Cryptology – Proceedings of CRYPTO ’85.
 Rairfield, R.C., Mortenson, R.L., Coulthart, K.B., 1984, An
LSI Random Number Generator, pp.203-230, Advances in Cryptology
- Proceedings of CRYPTO ’84.
 Newman, T.G., Odell, P.L., 1971, The Generation of Random
 Wichmann, B.A., Hill, I.D., 1982, A Pseudo-Random Number
Generator, NPL Report DITC 6/82, National Physical Laboratory.
 Neave, H., 1972, Random Number Package, University of
 L’Ecuyer, P., 1988, Efficient and Portable Combined Random
Number Generators, pp.742-749, 774, Communications of the ACM
Volume 31, Number 6.
 Schneier, B., 1996, Applied Cryptography, John Wiley &
 Kelsey, J., Schneier, B., Wagner, D., Hall, C., 1988,
Cryptanalytic Attacks on Pseudorandom Number Generators, pp.
168-188, Fast Software Encryption, Fifth International Workshop
Proceedings (March 1998), Springer-Verlag.
 Harel, D., 1992, Algorithmics, The Spirit of Computing, 2nd
 Maurer, U.M., 1992, A Universal Statistical Test for Random
Bit Generators, pp.89-105, Journal of Cryptology, Vol.5, No. 2.
 Eastlake 3rd, D., Crocker, S., Schiller, J., 1994,
Request for Comments 1750: Randomness Recommendations for
Security, Network Working Group.
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B., 1996, Discrete-Event System Simulation, Prentice-Hall.
 Fishman, G., 1973, Concepts and Methods in
Discrete Event Digital Simulation, John Wiley & Sons.
 Paul, R., Balmer, D., 1993, Simulation
Modelling, Chartwell Bratt.
 Kleijnen, J., Groenendaal, W., 1992,
Simulation – A Statistical Perspective, John Wiley & Sons.
 Ritter, T., Ciphers by Ritter, http://www.io.com/~ritter/
 DIEHARD, http://stat.fsu.edu/~geo/diehard.html
 Haahr, M., 1998, random.org – introduction,
 Marsaglia, G., 1984, A current view of Random Number
Generators, Computer Science and Statistics: The Proceedings of
the 16th Symposium on the Interface, Atlanta, Elsevier
 Author unknown, Random number generaton, RNGs and PRNGs,
 Moreau, T., 1996, A practical ‘perfect’ pseudo-random number
generator, article submitted to Computers in Physics.
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623-dimensionally equidistributed uniform pseudorandom number
generator, ACM Transactions on Modeling and Computer Simulation,
Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.3-30.
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generators, Annals of applied probability Vol. 1, No. 3,
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Fields Resource Guide, http://net.indra.com/~sullivan/q10.html
Appendix A: Evaluation
A.1 Project Overview
Much of the time taken (Well over one quarter) was spend tracking
down appropriate books and papers, for which the Internet has proved
an invaluable tool. Unfortunately much of the early work done by Von
Neumann and Kendall & Babington-Smith is no longer available and
even very large libraries such as the British Library and Library of
Congress have no record of the books. The tendency for work in this
field to be published purely as conference papers and in journals
rather than in books also proved a hinderance. This seems partly due
to the success of Knuth’s work  as no-one seems to have produced
any widely-used text on the subject because his work is regarded as
being "definitive", despite being considerably outdated.
Much confusion was also caused by the lack of standard naming for
many tests and generators and wildly varying notation – it is often
not possible to tell that two complex tests or generators are
identical until some considerable research has been carried out.
Almost all of the time in the initial few weeks was spent
narrowing down the areas covered as it was clear from a fairly early
stage that certain topics, discussed below in section A.2, were not
appropriate or too complex bearing in mind the ultimate
implementation aim of the project.
Most of the remainder of the time was spent reading and
attempting to understand some of the more complicated tests and
generators and following up references given in some of the more
useful works. Some of the maths involved required revising old
mathematical courses or researching mathematical concepts (Such as
Mersenne Primes used by the Mersenne Twister generator) new to the
author. References are not given for books used for this purpose as
they are generally outside the scope of this project and not useful
to the reader.
Once the bulk of the topic had been understood, the actual writing
of the report took relatively little time however, as is to be
expected, this was hardly a linear effort and new ideas or problems
were introduced with almost every writing session, entailing more
A.2 The Approach
Many areas, most notably theoretical analysis of generators, were
too complicated and would not be useful topics to study for producing
a suite of programs for generating and analysing random numbers.
Cryptographic areas of study were also dismissed fairly early as
being too complicated. More time was initially spent looking at
converting the uniformly distributed output produced by the
generators here to patterns following other distributions however
this is really outside the scope of the project as described in the
initial project proposal and was dropped. Although useful in a few
specific types of simulation modelling, in general an equally
distributed integer generator is sufficient for most applications.
Also, most of the work in this area is primarily mathematical and not
A.3 Possible Future Work In The Area
The most obvious extension of the work discussed here is
theoretical analysis of many of the newer generators, particularly
Mersenne Twisters. This is a topic best pursued by a mathematician
rather than a computer scientist, however, as proper theoretical
study is not a case of simple algorithmic work but requires at times
some fairly complex mathematics.
Another approach would be an actual suite of generation and
analysis tools, which is the eventual aim of the implementation
phase. The only suite currently freely available seems to be Diehard
, however the choice of tests used appears, in the currently
available version, to be limited to tests devised by the author
himself. However, the suite is widely referenced and does seem to be
regarded as something of a "benchmark" in the field. The
basic design is not particularly expandable, having been converted by
and large automatically from Fortran source and as such does not lend
itself well to experimentation by other researchers.
A somewhat more time-consuming and exhaustive topic would be a
full-blown article or book on the subject of non-cryptographic random
numbers, rather than just a literary review, including analysis of
some of the more recent developments such as work by Fishman, Maurer
- essentially an updated version of Knuth’s work in . This is
still the most widely used reference in the field but only discusses
congruential generators and the Kendall & Babbington-Smith tests
and is sadly out of date in many areas.