The Key Of Chaos

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Thursday, June 23, 2016 from 10:00 – 10:45am in B201


We built an open-hardware random number generator. We'll tell you all about it.


We built an open-hardware random number generator. We’ll tell you all about it.

The AltusMetrum ChaosKey is a open-source, open-hardware random number generator developed by Keith Packard in collaboration with Bdale Garbee and myself. The ChaosKey uses quantum effects to generate close to 1MB/s of bits with near-maximal entropy: about eight million perfect coin flips every second. To use it with a Linux box, you plug it into a USB port and it talks to a driver we already have placed in the Linux kernel, supplying /dev/random with numbers. The ChaosKey is expected to retail for $50 initially, and less in sufficient build quantity.

I will describe why you would want a ChaosKey in your computer, how the hardware works, how its software and driver works, how we verified its operation and how it checks itself using standard statistical health tests. I will also describe the history of the project and the path the ChaosKey took from concept to market, and what it teaches about open hardware commercialization. Some vague level of familiarity with software, hardware and simple statistics is assumed: nothing fancy.


open hardware, random numbers, commercialization

Speaking experience

I'm a Portland State University Professor who does lots of conference presentations.I have given eight Open Source Bridge talks in the past five years. I give a few public talks a year in addition to normal classroom work.


  • Beach headshot 320x200

    Bart Massey

    Portland State University


    Bart Massey has been geeking around with community computing for 35 years, and has been involved in Free Software and Open Source since its inception. For the past 15 years, he has been a CS Prof at Portland State University, where he works in open tech, software engineering, artificial intelligence and low-level software development.

    Bart’s titles include Member of the PSU MCECS Innovation Program Board and past Secretary of the X.Org Foundation Board. Bart is the architect of the X library XCB, a modern replacement for Xlib, and the author of the XCB image extension. His current open tech interests include Haskell, open hardware and building bridges between pieces of the open tech community. He was one of the original participants in the Open Source Bridge conversation.


Leave a private comment to organizers about this proposal