Twitter: raymondcamden

Address: Lafayette, LA, USA

ColdFusion, Random Numbers, and Time

03-11-2014 3,258 views ColdFusion 7 Comments

A while ago I logged a bug I had discovered with ColdFusion REST services. I had created a simple REST service that returned a random number between one and one hundred. Nothing too complex, right? But then I noticed something odd. If I called the REST service with a cfhttp call twice, I got the same number back. I had discovered - I thought - a serious caching issue with REST services. Turns out I was wrong.

If you read the comments for the bug, you will see one in particular that stands out:

I assume this is one of the engineers, although I don't know. It makes sense - kinda - but I certainly didn't know this and I'm willing to bet most folks aren't aware of this either. As a long time computer programmer, I have a vague idea of the intricacies of random number generation. Apparently it involves quantum states, time travel, and zombie kittens.

The person helping out on the comment thread suggested using IBMSecureRandom as an algorithm for the randRange, but according to the docs this is only supported on WebSphere. I used SHA1PRNG and it worked immediately.


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  • Commented on 03-11-2014 at 3:13 PM
    The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance.
  • Martijn van der Woud #
    Commented on 03-11-2014 at 3:48 PM
    If you are interested in learning more about randomness and what it really means I highly recommend

    They have some nice articles on the subject, and a web service that delivers true (not pseudo) random numbers based on atmospheric noise. How cool is that?
  • Commented on 03-11-2014 at 10:43 PM
    How cool? Very. :)
  • Commented on 03-12-2014 at 8:03 AM
    Definitely an uncool bug...Did you try using RandomUtils from Apache Commons? I think Joda might have a consistent implementation too...
  • Commented on 03-12-2014 at 8:07 AM
    @Martij is pretty awesome :)
  • Commented on 03-12-2014 at 10:16 AM
    @Edward: I'm not sure I'd call it a bug. I think the explanation in the bug report is clear enough - it is by design. Did you read my post completely though? By changing the algo, it worked as I expected.
  • Commented on 03-12-2014 at 6:43 PM

    Apologies ... I meant Zombie Kitten ..
    Not Bug.

    Sounds like a bug with a polite disclaimer ;)