RubyConf: Sydney and Rubinius

Posted by Nick Sieger Fri, 20 Oct 2006 19:07:00 GMT

Update: Evan has posted code and has a page set up for the project.

Evan Phoenix (nee Webb), of Seattle.rb, is presenting on Sydney and Rubinius, an experiment in improving the ruby interpreter. Sydney has died, and Rubinius has risen from its ashes, appropriately.


  • Why would you write a new Ruby interpreter? It’s fun, it’s a good challenge.
  • What’s wrong with the existing interpreter -- are you hating on Matz? Of course not.

Today’s Ruby interpreter is like a big dump truck -- sometimes a little slow, but it works for us. YARV is like the red, shiny fire truck. Both big and complex. Rubinius, by comparison, is like a dune buggy. Fast, light, but you’re going to get sand in your eyes if you drive it a lot.

The project, admittedly, is naive.

  • Simple architecture and implementation.
  • As little background magic as possible
  • No opaque C backend
  • Leverage axiom of simple == powerful
  • Less magic means more introspection
    • More control for the developer
    • Richer introspection: Backtrace, MethodTable objects

What was Sydney?

  • Giant patch to 1.8.2 that included reentrancy and thread-safety
  • Turned out to be a major PITA
  • CRuby uses a large number of C globals, references to which had to be tracked and fixed

Transition to Rubinius

  • Ruby borrowed a lot from Smalltalk, so why not try an implementation based on the same concepts?
  • Prototype A ported the blue-book implementation to Ruby
  • It worked and validated the basic concept and approach
  • Prototype B took ideas from A but implemented a bytecode interpreter and compiler. Used RubyInline to access raw memory operations.
  • At this time the goal emerged to have a translator which could take a prototype and bootstrap itself into C code.
  • Prototype S was a manual translation of Prototype B into C code to make the implementation quicker.
  • Prototype W was created to translate parts of Prototype B so that there is a maintainable core in Ruby code itself.


Q. Since you were starting over, could you use a platform-independent library to ease the process, such as APR? Yes -- currently using String and PointerArray from glib.

Q. How is performance? Too early to tell -- I hope to know by the end of the conference. Prototype S became runnable and usable on the plane here.

Q. Can you clarify the goal? To create a Ruby interpreter in Ruby that can translate itself out into a C interpreter.

Q. Have you figured out how to link in external libraries in a platform independent way? No. My hope is that the decision will be made to write a common framework for translating to system calls, e.g., SWT.

Q. Have you looked at PyPy? (similar project for Python) Yes, and it’s f-in complicated. It worries me actually.

Q. Could you have it generate backend code in another language/platform (Java bytecode, CLR)? Yes, I certainly hope so, otherwise I’m wasting my time.

Q. How will you add native thread support in a cross-platform way? I hope I won’t have to, by leveraging external tools.

Q. If you’re building a Ruby-to-C translator, why write a Ruby interpreter at all? If I didn’t, what would I translate? You still need some core engine to translate. Would it be a subset of Ruby? Yes.

Q. Looks very similar to Squeak, have you looked at Squeak code and talked to Squeak people? Looked at code a lot, I’ve really stolen all of their ideas. I haven’t talked to the folks yet because I’m afraid they might laugh at me.

Resulting Works

  • SydneyParser: Used parser from Sydney and stole ParseTree’s algorithm for generating a sexp that represents the Ruby code.
  • SegfaultProtection: detects a segfault in an extension, saves the Ruby interpreter, and raises a memory fault exception instead.

The Nitty Gritty (Red Pill)

  • All components separated by APIs for swappability
  • Garbage collector: baker two-space copy collector, and a train GC
  • Bytecode interpreter: small set of instructions driven by tests and need, so there are no extraneous operations
  • Compiler: written completely in Ruby, using ParseTree and SexpProcessor. Intended to compile itself to be used as a base compiler for Prototype S.


  • Other backends -- Java, Smalltalk

More questions

Q. Worried about fragmentation? Yes, but I really want to make it as compatible as possible with the current interpreter.

Q. Rubinius bytecode compatibile with YARV? No, but I hope to be able to write a bridge to YARV in Rubinius.

Q. Have you looked at Valgrind for the C code? Yes, I have. Good possibility for future direction.

Q. Can you demo some code? They’re incredibly boring. “Look I got a MethodTable object, I asked for one.”

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RubyConf: History of Ruby

Posted by Nick Sieger Fri, 20 Oct 2006 19:06:00 GMT

Takahashi-san is here to present on the history of Ruby, an apparently thankless task, because none of the other original Rubyists are historians. Takahashi is the co-author of two Japanese books on Ruby, Enjoy Ruby and Ruby Recipe Book. He also has the “Takahashi method” of presentation named after him. His talk presented an informative timeline of Ruby, the details of which were a bit tricky to capture. If I transcribed anything erroneously, please let me know.

Pre-history age

  • Born 24th of February 1993. Without code!
  • Matz and Keiju-san proposed the name first.
  • Thus one of the philosophies of Ruby came to be -- that the name of things matters. Matz: “I guess Ruby is cool”. Keiju: “I also like coral”. Matz: “oops”.

Ancient age

  • Ruby is in public -- release 21 December 1995 -- ruby-0.95.
  • ruby-list ML was launched. First mail: ruby-0.95 test failed. Subsequently 3 versions of Ruby were released in two days.
  • No CVS repository at the time. Anonymous CVS was to come in 1999.
  • 25 December 1996 -- Ruby 1.0 released.
  • 1 July 1997: Matz announces that Netlab hired him to be a full-time Ruby developer.
  • 22 Septempber 1997: an article was published on Ruby -- the first article on the web about Ruby.
  • 15 May 1998: RAA launched, maintained manually by Matz.
  • 7 December 1998: Ruby home page was in English, but very simple.


  • Ruby is spreading in Japan during this time. The community is growing around Japanese programming language designers and programmers who do not understand English. Finally they have a tool that they can embrace and establish their own opinions and choices.
  • 27 October 1999: Matz and Keiju’s book is published, the first Ruby book
  • More Ruby books would follow in 2001-2002 (~20 books -- a bubble). But the bubble popped in 2003.
  • 4 November 1999: Ruby workshop
  • There were some Perl and Ruby/Perl conferences during this time also.
  • 26 May 2001: YARPC -- Yet Another Ruby and Perl Conference
  • 9 August 2003: Lightweight language (LL) -- lightweight language workshop (LL Saturday) in 2003. PHP, Perl, Ruby and Python were present. LL Weekend, LL Day and Night, and LL Ring would follow in 2004-2006.
  • LL Ring: 300 attendees talking about LLs in a real boxing ring.


  • Ruby spreads outside of Japan
  • 16 Feb 2002 -- ruby-talk ML surpasses ruby-list ML.
  • ruby-talk was started in December of 1998, but the first posts are almost all Japanese authors writing in English.
  • SunWorld in Februrary 1999 has an article entitled “New choices for scripting” including Ruby.
  • February 2000: IBM Developerworks article on the “latest open source gem from Japan”.
  • InformIT article by Matz also in 2000.
  • 15 December 2001: Programming Ruby by the Pragprogs (1st edition of the Pickaxe).
  • Ruby Kaigi -- first Japanese Ruby conference didn’t happen until 2006, it turns out only because of a dinner of Japanese rubyists at RubyConf 2005 decided that it would be fun.


  • Rails age -- the killer application for Ruby
  • We all know what happened, so we’ll skip this part.

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RubyConf 2006 Begins

Posted by Nick Sieger Fri, 20 Oct 2006 19:04:00 GMT

The RubyConf room is filling up this morning. I’ll be doing my best to live-blog the conference here so stay tuned!



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