Can you believe it’s already been an entire year since I had the opportunity to join my first ever developers conference, the RubyKaigi? Over the past three days, I was blessed with the opportunity to also enjoy this year’s talks and sessions, and get once again the opportunity to immerse myself in the Ruby ecosystem that I had to, unfortunately, leave behind for the time being due to project assignments. In this article, I’d like to highlight some of my favourite moments from the conference.

About RubyKaigi

Before I delve into the details on various sessions, let me just make sure we’re all on the same page by reiterating what RubyKaigi is in the first place. RubyKaigi is the largest conference for Ruby programmers held annually in Japan since 2006. Just like last year, while some of the presentations and discussions are done in Japanese, there was a simultaneous live audio translation service available for the numerous international members of the community that do not have the luxury of knowing the Japanese language.

Finally, just like last year, this year’s RubyKaigi format has been altered into an online-only conference. I hope that next year, we can all go back to the original format of an in-person conference.

TypeProf for IDE

The conference kicked off into high gear with Yusuke Endoh-san’s keynote presentation on the benefits of static typing and TypeProf, a code analysis tool shipped with Ruby 3.0, that is capable to analyze the types of your code without having to write every single type annotation. Today’s special announcement followed just shortly after, and it took the form of TypeProf for IDE, an extension for Visual Studio Code powered by TypeProf.

TypeProf for IDE can already today provide on-the-fly hints on method signatures (displayed conveniently in Code Lens), report errors as you type, find definitions of methods you call and offer code completion which takes types into consideration. Of course and as always, if TypeProf guesses the type of your method incorrectly, you can manually override that inferred type signature by manually specifying the method signature using RBS. TypeProf for IDE will ship with Ruby 3.1, but if the above description already got you excited (as it should!), you can start using it today by following a couple of manual steps.

I welcome TypeProf for IDE as an exciting addition to the Ruby ecosystem that will allow for comfortable development even in light-weight editors, because it should not be needed to open a full-blown IDE (don’t worry, I still love you, RubyMine) just to write a simple script or make a small change in your code.

Ruby Archaeology, parallel testing with Ractors and the danger of regular expressions 💎⛏

Many other great sessions were happening on the first day of RubyKaigi, but if I had to highlight only three, then Ruby Archaeology by Nick Schwaderer would have to be one of my them for sure. In his talk, Nick looked into the ancient history of Ruby and explained all the hoops and traps he had to overcome and work his way around to get a 12-year-old version of Ruby working. Even though Ruby itself would run just fine in an appropriate operating system for that time, to my surprise, most of the problems seemed to lie elsewhere – in particular, by relying on remote resources that may not be accessible the same way as they used to be, or just might be gone in the digital heaven altogether. Fortunately, if you want to follow in Nick’s footsteps and become a time traveller yourself, you won’t have to work quite as hard as he did.

Finally, I’d like to highlight Vinicius Stock’s presentation and work on a test framework that would leverage the power of Ractors to achieve faster test execution (because having a slow test suite is the best way to discourage your developers to run it) and Martin J. Dürst’s tour into the land of amazing, yet sometimes dangerous regular expressions.

Keyboard is essentially Ruby, or ⌨️ = 💎

Okay okay, I might be biased but I still have to say this: the personal highlight of the second day, if not the entire conference, would really have to be our Monstarlab’s Hitoshi Hasumi-san’s presentation on PRK Firmware – and that’s a pretty crazy achievement if you consider how amazing the rest of the speakers and presentations were!

In his live presentation, Hasumi-san kept blowing the audience collective minds in regular intervals. On the first level, it’s already incredibly impressive to be able to program the firmware of your custom-built keyboard in Ruby. On the next level, it’s even more impressive to be able to dedicate certain keys to execute Ruby code, as Hasumi-san demonstrated with his Fibonacci key and password generator key. And then on whole another level from another universe, it’s truly mind-blowing to have a “Ruby key” which turns the combination of your keyboard and any text editor (even as simple as Notepad.exe) into essentially an IRB shell. You can truly take your Ruby with you anywhere you go – but before you actually go, don’t forget to read Hasumi-san’s article on static type checking in PicoRuby if you missed it earlier!

Graphical Terminal User Interface of Ruby 3.1

I have to come clean, I’m a big fan of smart, intuitive and user-friendly terminal user interfaces, or TUIs for short. IRB is already a very smart REPL (read-evaluate-print-loop, something every self-respecting programming language should provide) environment with its powerful auto-completions, automatic indentations and even syntax highlighting, but it seems that Itoyanagi Sakura-san’s plans don’t stop there: by improving the Reline library, IRB in Ruby 3.1 will offer not only code auto-completion using the Tab key as before, but will even show you all possible options in a lovely drop-down menu, just like any IDE would!

Do regex dream of Turing completeness? 😴💭

Finally, the third and final day of RubyKaigi kicked off with Daniel Magliola’s investigative goal of finding out whether regular expressions are Turing-complete by trying to implement Conway’s Game of Life entirely in a regular expression. I think I won’t spoil much by sharing the conclusion – which is the realization that regular expressions are not fully Turing-complete, but they’re not that far off the mark – because the entire talk is absolutely worth watching and shows not only Daniel’s ingenuity and inventiveness, but also the power and quirks of regular expressions that you likely were not aware of before.

Native extensions and dead ends

Following up was an interesting talk by Mike Dalessio on the topic of native extensions (“this could take a while…”, a message we all likely saw in the past and sighed just a bit anytime it appeared in our terminals) and native gems, which contain the pre-compiled libraries for a specific architecture, thus removing the need to compile the C extensions yourself.

Richard Schneeman demonstrated in an incredibly professionally done presentation his work on the dead_end which will help you next time quickly diagnose and fix all of your “unexpected end” error messages with ease. It can diagnose missing end and do keywords as well as unmatched | and } symbols, and I’d love to both try it myself soon and also have it included in Ruby itself.

Closing keynote by Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto

Finally, the conference concluded with Yukihiro Matsumoto-san’s closing keynote.

In the first half, he looked back at the relatively recent release of Ruby 3.0, which was both a first major release in nearly eight years (since Ruby 2.0’s original release), but also a release that still kept the importance of backward compatibility in mind, because as surprising as that might be to some communities, developers don’t really like new things if it means that their old code stops working and has to be re-written.

Matsumoto-san highlighted the wonderful additions that Ruby 3.0 brought to the developers, such as support for type definitions with RBS, which are conceptually similar to TypeScript’s d.ts files – or personally, I feel that they are very similar in both nature and syntax to Elixir’s Dialyzer typespecs. Numbered block parameters and support for pattern matching (funnily enough, two more features that I love in Elixir and am so happy to see in Ruby) were also mentioned, as well as two approaches for better concurrent programming: Fiber Scheduler with its fast context switching is ideal for I/O heavy operations, while Ractor is here to save the day for all the CPU-intensive tasks.

After that, the presentation shifted focus to the upcoming release of Ruby 3.1. It was stated that Ruby 3.1 will be a conservative release with the main goals of improved stability, more bug fixing, and especially two things: developer comfort (thanks to a more powerful IRB and TypeProf for IDE) and even more speed – but ideally, it would be a speed that doesn’t come in the form of pointless number-chasing in artificial benchmarks, but rather a speed that’s more closely related to where speed is truly needed in real-world applications.

I cannot but applaud the decision to focus on these two aspects, as I find the developer’s comfort one of the key elements in a programming language’s viability, and unfortunately, the rest of the world judges languages by the other aspect. I can’t wait to see what the future brings to Ruby, and I hope to participate in RubyKaigi also next year!

Author

Milan Vít

Back-end & Infrastructure Engineer

Back-end 👨‍💻, infrastructure 🏗, tinkering 🛠, mechanical keyboards ⌨️ and more.
Recently fascinated and intrigued by Elixir 🧪 and the magic of functional programming 🧙‍♂️✨

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