# random

## overview of interfaces for obtaining randomness

## SYNOPSIS

```
#include <stdlib.h>
long random(void);
void srandom(unsigned int seed);
char *initstate(unsigned int seed, char *state, size_t n);
char *setstate(char *state);
```

Feature Test Macro Requirements for glibc (see

feature_test_macros(7)):

**random**(), **srandom**(), **initstate**(), **setstate**():

```
_XOPEN_SOURCE >= 500
|| /* Glibc since 2.19: */ _DEFAULT_SOURCE
|| /* Glibc <= 2.19: */ _SVID_SOURCE || _BSD_SOURCE
```

## DESCRIPTION

The **random**() function uses a nonlinear additive feedback random number generator employing a default table of size 31 long integers to return successive pseudo-random numbers in the range from 0 to 2^31 - 1. The period of this random number generator is very large, approximately *16 * ((2^31) - 1)*.

The **srandom**() function sets its argument as the seed for a new sequence of pseudo-random integers to be returned by **random**(). These sequences are repeatable by calling **srandom**() with the same seed value. If no seed value is provided, the **random**() function is automatically seeded with a value of 1.

The **initstate**() function allows a state array *state* to be initialized for use by **random**(). The size of the state array *n* is used by **initstate**() to decide how sophisticated a random number generator it should useāthe larger the state array, the better the random numbers will be. Current "optimal" values for the size of the state array *n* are 8, 32, 64, 128, and 256 bytes; other amounts will be rounded down to the nearest known amount. Using less than 8 bytes results in an error. *seed* is the seed for the initialization, which specifies a starting point for the random number sequence, and provides for restarting at the same point.

The **setstate**() function changes the state array used by the **random**() function. The state array *state* is used for random number generation until the next call to **initstate**() or **setstate**(). *state* must first have been initialized using **initstate**() or be the result of a previous call of **setstate**().

## RETURN VALUE

The **random**() function returns a value between 0 and *(2^31) - 1*. The **srandom**() function returns no value.

The **initstate**() function returns a pointer to the previous state array. On failure, it returns NULL, and *errno* is set to indicate the error.

On success, **setstate**() returns a pointer to the previous state array. On failure, it returns NULL, and *errno* is set to indicate the error.

## ERRORS

**EINVAL**The

*state*argument given to**setstate**() was NULL.**EINVAL**A state array of less than 8 bytes was specified to

**initstate**().

## ATTRIBUTES

For an explanation of the terms used in this section, see **attributes**(7).

Interface | Attribute | Value |

random(), srandom(), initstate(), setstate() |
Thread safety | MT-Safe |

## CONFORMING TO

POSIX.1-2001, POSIX.1-2008, 4.3BSD.

## NOTES

The **random**() function should not be used in multithreaded programs where reproducible behavior is required. Use **random_r**(3) for that purpose.

Random-number generation is a complex topic. *Numerical Recipes in C: The Art of Scientific Computing* (William H. Press, Brian P. Flannery, Saul A. Teukolsky, William T. Vetterling; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007, 3rd ed.) provides an excellent discussion of practical random-number generation issues in Chapter 7 (Random Numbers).

For a more theoretical discussion which also covers many practical issues in depth, see Chapter 3 (Random Numbers) in Donald E. Knuth's *The Art of Computer Programming*, volume 2 (Seminumerical Algorithms), 2nd ed.; Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1981.

## BUGS

According to POSIX, **initstate**() should return NULL on error. In the glibc implementation, *errno* is (as specified) set on error, but the function does not return NULL.

## COLOPHON

This page is part of release 5.13 of the Linux *man-pages* project. A description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the latest version of this page, can be found at https://www.kernel.org/doc/man-pages/.

## SEE ALSO

getrandom(2), drand48(3), rand(3), random_r(3), srand(3)