Friday, September 27, 2013

A tale of two Ruby communities

I've lately begun to realize that there are two Ruby communities.

The first runs MRI - they use Mac OS and occasionally Linux if forced to. They have green threads so they don't worry about ugly things like threading or mutexes or deadlocks. They sometimes write libraries in Ruby, and sometimes in C or C++.

The other community runs JRuby on whatever platform they feel comfortable in (including *gasp* WINDOWS). They have OS-level threads so they avoid things like global variables and mutable class state. Most of the time they write libraries in Ruby, but occasionally they'll include dependencies on Java libraries.

(As a side note, I have no experience with Rubinius. I think it's in the second camp but not sure.)

When you find a new gem that you'd like to use, it's important to figure out what camp it belongs in. Some are very easy to figure out - if it uses Java, you're in the JRuby camp. If it uses C or C++ code, it's the first. Other gems are harder to figure out. Gems that are written in Ruby are theoretically compatible with either implementation. But they aren't always 100% compatible.

Personally I belong in the second camp. I write multi-threaded code. When I run across a nifty gem that uses class variables to hold database connections, I am a sad programmer.

My primary development box runs Windows. That's a certain special level of hell. Many times a gem that otherwise works perfectly fine simply won't run unit tests. Or gems that load their configuration from the local database install. (actually can't blame that one on MRI - that project is entirely JRuby based.)

(There's a certain attitude that Ruby developers get when you say you're running Windows. Comments such as "get yourself a real development machine" are commonplace.)

Ruby's a great language. But it's very difficult to migrate developers from other languages when the barriers to entry are so specific. Ruby developers are proud that they don't have to use a IDE (and right to be proud, I believe), but how much more of a barrier to entry is having to use a MacBook?

And why the hell are people ignoring OS threads?

Won't someone please think about the OS threads?!

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