Keeping it Small and Simple


Another Ruby implementation: XRuby

Filed under: Ruby Programming — Tags: , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 21:21

In #rubinius on Freenode today, I heard of another Ruby implementation called xruby. It compiles ruby files to Java class files that can be run in the JVM. I just downloaded xruby-0.3.2, which appears to be the latest release at least as this time of writing.

It’s cool that there is a lot of interest in Ruby and so many different implementations coming up. At this point in time I think it’s a good idea that there are several different implementations. I also think it’s cool if at least some of them take the opportunity to experiment a little bit, without straying away too far from the core Ruby language of course. Several implementations gives us the ability to compare and contrast ideas, to see what works well and what doesn’t.

What I wouldn’t want is that each implementation over time adding its own extensions to the point where we end up with 100,000 incompatible Ruby implementations. I don’t want Ruby to become fragmented to point where we have Ruby, Ruby++, Ruby#, RubyLite and RubyDuby. Wouldn’t you also hate to have to sit and add a section in your READMEs about which Rubies are supported or to go to download some Ruby program just to be confronted with 1000 different packages for different rubies?

I understand the good folks over at the Rubinius have added a few extensions. A few methods here and there that have been added to core Ruby classes. If these extensions prove useful they should obviously go into all Ruby implementations. I don’t have anything against Rubinius at all (on the contrary, I’m very excited about it). But I’d be reluctant to use a feature that is only available in Rubinius, at least if it is going to remain a Rubinius-specific extension.

JRuby obviously has its own set of extensions which are required in order to interact with the Java class libraries and to be a good citizen of the JVM community. JRuby manages to be a good citizen of the Ruby community as well.

And now there’s XRuby. That was a lie. It’s been around for quite some time, just that I hadn’t heard of it before today. I’ve managed to build it while I’m writing this post. I compiled one of the samples. It seems to compile and JARify the ruby sources. I haven’t been able to figure out how to run the compiled program yet (complaining about not finding RubyProgram.class), but I haven’t tried all that hard yet.

Of course, I hear there is a Ruby implementation for Mono as well. But an aptitude search doesn’t turn up anything interesting. It could be that it’s not in Debian yet. It could also be that it’s got a weird name that has nothing to do with Ruby. I don’t really have much experience with Mono.

What I think is important is that the various communities work closely together so that all the good stuff finds its way back and becomes an official (whatever *that* means) part of Ruby eventually. I guess in the end MRI is the One Ruby to rule them all, so if a feature makes it there it is likely to get adapted by the others. I hope MRI doesn’t turn the others into mindless zombie (read: nazgul) processes that only know how to obey their master.. 😉

Enough already! I’m a programmer not a damn philosopher.


1 Comment »

  1. Hello Lorenzo.

    Before I hired Evan Phoenix at RailsConf 2007, the first question I asked him was, paraphrased, “How are you going to ensure that Rubinius doesn’t fracture the Ruby community?”

    He answered immediately, and without hesitation, paraphrased, “That’s why we have a HUGE spec suite. To fully document exactly what MRI is, and exactly what Rubinius will be.”

    The Rubinius team shares your concerns entirely. We welcome and encourage the rest of the Ruby implementations to share in the creation of Rubinius’ test suite, an offer that the JRuby and IronRuby teams have already taken us up on.

    Comment by Tom Mornini — 2008.01.29 @ 01:36

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