[swift-evolution] [Proposal] Random Unification

Alejandro Alonso aalonso128 at outlook.com
Sun Nov 5 18:33:17 CST 2017

https://github.com/apple/swift-evolution/pull/760 is the current API and proposed solution.

- Alejandro

On Nov 5, 2017, 6:18 PM -0600, Xiaodi Wu <xiaodi.wu at gmail.com>, wrote:
My comments are directed to the "more up-to-date" document that you just linked to in your reply to Jon. Is that one outdated? If so, can you send a link to the updated proposal and implementation for which you're soliciting feedback?

On Sun, Nov 5, 2017 at 6:12 PM, Alejandro Alonso <aalonso128 at outlook.com<mailto:aalonso128 at outlook.com>> wrote:
The proposal and implementation have the current updated API. The link I sent Jon was the one I brought up a few weeks ago which is outdated now. The proposal answers all of your questions. As for `.random` being a function, some would argue that it behaves in the same way as `.first` and `.last` which are properties.

- Alejandro

On Nov 5, 2017, 6:07 PM -0600, Xiaodi Wu <xiaodi.wu at gmail.com<mailto:xiaodi.wu at gmail.com>>, wrote:
A few quick thoughts:

I know that there's been some discussion that `(1...10).random` is the best spelling, but I'd like to push back on that suggestion. When I want a random number, I tend to think of the type I want first ("I want a random integer") and then a range ("I want a random integer between a and b"), not the other way around. My intuition is that `Int.random(in:)` will be more discoverable, both on that basis and because it is more similar to other languages' syntax (`Math.random` in JavaScript and `randint` in NumPy, for example). It also has the advantage that the type is explicit, which I think is particularly useful in this case because the value itself is, well, random.

I would also argue that, `random` is most appropriately a method and not a property; there's no hard and fast rule for this, but the fact that the result is stochastic suggests (to me) that it's not a "property" of the range (or, for that matter, of the type).

I would reiterate here my qualms about `Source` being the term used for a generator. These types are not a _source_ of entropy but rather a _consumer_ of entropy.

`UnsafeRandomSource` needs to be renamed; "unsafe" has a specific meaning in Swift--that is, memory safety, and this is not it. Moreover, it's questionable whether this protocol is useful in any sense. What useful generic algorithms can one write with such a protocol?

`XoroshiroRandom` cannot be seeded by any `Numeric` value; depending on the specific algorithm it needs a seed of a specific bit width. If you default the shared instance to being seeded with an `Int` then you will have to have distinct implementations for 32-bit and 64-bit platforms. This is unadvisable. On that note, your `UnsafeRandomSource` needs to have an associated type and not a generic `<T : Numeric>` for the seed.

The default random number generator should be cryptographically secure; however, it's not clear to me that it should be device random.

I agree with others that alternative random number generators other than the default RNG (and, if not default, possibly also the device RNG) should be accommodated by the protocol hierarchy but not necessarily supplied in the stdlib.

The term `Randomizable` means something specific which is not how it's used in your proposed protocol.

There's still the open question, not answered, about how requesting an instance of the hardware RNG behaves when there's insufficient or no entropy. Does it return nil, throw, trap, or wait? The proposed API does not clarify this point, although based on the method signature it cannot return nil or throw. Trapping might be acceptable but I'd be interested to hear your take as to why it is preferable.

On Sun, Nov 5, 2017 at 4:43 PM, Alejandro Alonso via swift-evolution <swift-evolution at swift.org<mailto:swift-evolution at swift.org>> wrote:
For the proof of concept, I had accidentally deleted that one. I have a more up to date one which was discussed a few weeks later. https://gist.github.com/Azoy/15f0518df38df9b722d4cb17bafea4c1

- Alejandro

On Nov 5, 2017, 4:37 PM -0600, Jonathan Hull <jhull at gbis.com<mailto:jhull at gbis.com>>, wrote:
Is there a link to the writeup?  The one in the quote 404s.


On Nov 5, 2017, at 2:10 PM, Alejandro Alonso via swift-evolution <swift-evolution at swift.org<mailto:swift-evolution at swift.org>> wrote:

Hello once again Swift evolution community. I have taken the time to write up the proposal for this thread, and have provided an implementation for it as well. I hope to once again get good feedback on the overall proposal.

- Alejandro

On Sep 8, 2017, 11:52 AM -0500, Alejandro Alonso via swift-evolution <swift-evolution at swift.org<mailto:swift-evolution at swift.org>>, wrote:
Hello swift evolution, I would like to propose a unified approach to `random()` in Swift. I have a simple implementation here https://gist.github.com/Azoy/5d294148c8b97d20b96ee64f434bb4f5. This implementation is a simple wrapper over existing random functions so existing code bases will not be affected. Also, this approach introduces a new random feature for Linux users that give them access to upper bounds, as well as a lower bound for both Glibc and Darwin users. This change would be implemented within Foundation.

I believe this simple change could have a very positive impact on new developers learning Swift and experienced developers being able to write single random declarations.

I’d like to hear about your ideas on this proposal, or any implementation changes if need be.

- Alejando

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