Baby's First Ruby Script

  1. is like someone tried to reimplement CPAN with crayons and a dumpster.

  2. most of the Ruby community thinks an API dump is documentation. Some of them don’t even supply that.

  3. 90% of FAQs assume you’re using Rails. Maybe 95%.

  4. I got bad flashbacks to Pascal from having to put function definitions at the top. Yeah, whatever.

  5. “our {} is different” will trip me up for years.

  6. not being able to freely break lines mid-expression is annoying.

  7. googling for help always returns obsolete 10-year-old results (“thanks, pagerank!”).

  8. manual type conversion == stone knives and bearskins.

  9. ri is like someone tried to reimplement perldoc with chalk. In the rain.


I had a tiny project that had minimal dependencies. The Perl version flowed from my fingers like water, naturally, but the logic was trivial, and all it needed was a TOML parser and some random numbers, so it seemed like it would be easy to try out in Ruby. And I can even say something nice about the language: shuffle() and uniq() are core array methods.

A related script generates an improved Japanese Diceware ruleset using JMdict, but I haven’t found a full-featured romanization gem, and the advice about XML parsing is all over the map. Perl’s XML::Twig and its simplify() method have really spoiled me; I ended up having to mix Nokogiri::XML::Reader with Nori.parse, and then write my own force_arrays() function to emulate one of the most useful features of simplify(). The result is still only a crude approximation of what I can do with XML::Twig, but it suffices for this project.

While I’m complaining, the following gang-bang expression is not equivalent to the assignment version, which produces a sorted random unique subset of the array. Instead, you get the unsorted complement of the desired slice, unless the array was already unique, in which case Ruby blows chunks. This is, um, non-obvious.

words = words.uniq.shuffle.slice(0,7776).sort

On an unrelated note, I was amused to discover that the only useful PDF-generating gem still doesn’t support clipping paths, and while the authors claim it can easily be extended to support additional low-level PDF operators, that feature is not mentioned anywhere in the documentation or code…

Why play with Ruby in the first place? An old friend and on-again co-worker is a real zealot. Of course, our uses of scripting languages are very nearly orthogonal, to the point that many of the reasons I keep bouncing off of Ruby are things he never sees.

And, yes, I continue to be offended by Python’s use of indentation, although I’ll tolerate it at small scale to play with Ren’Py and CircuitPython. It’s heavily pushed on the Raspberry Pi as well, but at least there I can run Emacs and Perl, as Ghod intended.

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