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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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