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seedbank

One of the gotchas with writing programs that use randomness is reproducibility.

Like, if you're developing a Markov-chain-based generator for NaNoGenMo, and you're running it a few times while tweaking it, and — hey, that output was pretty interesting! — but you've already pressed ctrl-C and now it's gone forever.

A good solution is to write your program so that it can take a given random seed as input somehow, and if one is not given, pick one randomly and report it somehow, for possible future use.

You could implement that pattern using a command-line option and whatnot, but that gets tedious and possibly inconsistent if you're developing multiple such programs. So seedbank aims to make it dead simple — a one-line change to your script.

Usage

First, make sure the seedbank module is on your PYTHONPATH. For example, you might add this line to your .bashrc:

export PYTHONPATH=/path/to/this/repo/src:$PYTHONPATH

Then, in your Python program, where you would normally say

import random

you instead say

import seedbank as random

and you can continue to use all the functions in the random module as normal, while seedbank takes care of the seeding and reporting in the following manner:

Then, if you ever want to re-run with a seed that was picked, you can review the log file, pick the seed you want, and set SEEDBANK_SEED to that. Or just set SEEDBANK_SEED=LAST to re-use the immediately previous seed.

You can of course import individual functions from seedbank as if they were from random, and that works too:

from seedbank import choice, randint

Example

The programs in bin/ in this repo demonstrate the concept. Example transcript:

$ bin/seedbank_demo1
eoaeuio
$ bin/seedbank_demo1
aoueo
$ cat seedbank.log 
bin/seedbank_demo1: 2015-10-11 10:39:11.440595: 615184
bin/seedbank_demo1: 2015-10-11 10:39:12.495845: 100141
$ SEEDBANK_SEED=615184 bin/seedbank_demo1
eoaeuio
$