since 1999


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Lava lamps providing randomness for security!

Clients and new co-workers often ask me about my lava lamp that I keep in my home office in view of the web cam. Besides being cool, I do this intentionally to celebrate the lava lamp’s role in keeping the Internet secure!

According to Wikipedia, “Lavarand was a hardware random number generator designed by Silicon Graphics that worked by taking pictures of the patterns made by the floating material in lava lamps, extracting random data from the pictures, and using the result to seed a pseudorandom number generator” (Lavarand).

The Internet security company CloudFlare uses an entire wall of Lava Lamps to help seed their random number generators for their servers. On a work trip to San Francisco, CA, before the pandemic, I stopped by to get a photo. The nice lady at the front desk buzzed me in and I got the impression that I was not the first tourist who just wanted a photo with the wall. They had plenty of sticker swag available too.

Because I like a bit of automation, I keep my Lava Lamp on a Lutron Caséta dimmer so that it comes on in the morning before I come to work and shuts itself off after 8 hours, which is recommended to keep lava lamps from deteriorating for over use.

The upgrade would be to buy 5-6 more lamps and build a proper setup. But I worry that my wife may think I am tripping out in another way.