Thursday, 8 May 2008

A service for true random numbers

After the exam board meeting at Trinity College in Dublin (I am external examiner for the Ubicomp program) I went back with Mads Haahr (the course director) to his office. Besides the screen on which he works he has one extra where constantly the log entries of his web server is displayed. It is an interesting awareness devices ;-) some years ago we did a project where we used the IP-address of incoming HTTP-requests to guess who the visitors are and to show their web pages on an awareness display [1], [2]. Looking back at web visitors works very well in an academic context and with request out of larger companies where one can expect that information is available on the web. Perhaps we should revisit the work and look how we can push this further given the new possibilities in the web.

The web-server Mads has in his office is pretty cool – it provides true random numbers – based on atmospheric noise picked up with 3 real radios (I saw them)! Have a look at the service for yourself: www.random.org. It provides an HTTP interface to use those numbers in your own applications. I would not have though of a web service to provide random numbers – but thinking a little more it makes a lot of sense…

[1] Schmidt, A. and Gellersen, H. 2001. Visitor awareness in the web. In Proceedings of the 10th international Conference on World Wide Web (Hong Kong, Hong Kong, May 01 - 05, 2001). WWW '01. ACM, New York, NY, 745-753. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/371920.372194

[2] Gellersen, H. and Schmidt, A. 2002. Look who's visiting: supporting visitor awareness in the web. Int. J. Hum.-Comput. Stud. 56, 1 (Jan. 2002), 25-46. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/ijhc.2001.0514

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