An Action Plan for Ruby-in-XPages

Apr 13, 2012, 11:55 AM

Tags: xpages ruby

So far, my naive implementation of Ruby bindings seems to be working out well and I've been coming up with a list of the main things I want to tackle next:

  1. Figure out if I'm embedding it correctly. I suspect that working this out will go a long way to solving some of the later items in this list, but it's also the best starting place anyway.

    For now, I'm using the "Core" method of embedding JRuby, which is the most straightforward way to do it: create a runtime, execute your scripts, and terminate it. It's also not so simple that it's not flexible: it has a couple different configurations for dealing with threads and variable context, so it's entirely possible that it may, in fact, be the correct way for me to do it.

    However, there are also a couple other methods: JSR 233, BSF, and directly via the JRuby API. I don't know enough yet about the XPages Java stack to know if either of the former two are at all applicable, so they may or may not be worth investigating. Direct use of the API is clearly the most flexible way to go, but I'm not certain that I NEED to get that arcane. ScriptingContainer may end up working fine. There's also this:

  2. Serialization. The ScriptingContainer itself isn't Serializable, but that doesn't necessarily mean that other parts aren't or that general state can't be retained. Ideally, each XPage's Ruby environment would survive Serialization/restoreState intact, closures and all.

  3. Variable lifetime. I want to figure out how best to handle variable scopes. Conceptually, I think it'd make the most sense for basic local variables ("foo = 'bar'") to be available for the duration of the page. But is that really the right way? As it stands right now, variables are local to the value binding where they're declared (as if they're variables in a function), but defined methods are available elsewhere. Here's what I mean:

    <!-- This produces an error because the second xp:text can't find foo -->
    <xp:text value="#{ruby: foo = 'bar'; foo}"/>
    <xp:text value="#{ruby: foo}"/>

    <!-- This produces "barbar" because the "foo" method persists to the second binding -->
    <xp:text value="#{ruby: def foo; 'bar'; end; foo}"/>
    <xp:text value="#{ruby: foo}"/>

    That might actually be the right way to do it. However, there are other aspects to it. For example, setting a constant (in Ruby, a constant is a variable with an initial capital letter) currently persists between pages, presumably lasting for the duration of the application. THAT certainly doesn't sound right to me. Furthermore, what about other languages? If I make it so that local variables are available between Ruby bindings, should I try to export those variables to the overall page context so that pure-EL and JavaScript can get to them? I wonder if that'd be possible with methods, too.

  4. Spruce up the Domino API a bit. Ruby lets you "re-open" classes at runtime, adding whatever additional methods you want. In JRuby, this power works for Java classes, too. Allow me to demonstrate ("post" is a xp:dominoDocument):

    module Java module LotusDominoLocal class Document def [](field) self.get_item_value(field) end end end end post.document["Form"]

    I think you can imagine how this could improve your programming life.

  5. Pre-compiled JRuby classes. This isn't strictly part of "Ruby-in-XPages", since it'd be done via an Eclipse builder, but I think it'd be worth looking into. JRuby can be used to generate Java classes that can be compiled ahead of time with jrubyc. The generated classes would still require the JRuby runtime and would thus be presumably slower than the equivalent "pure" Java version, but they'd be faster than interpreted or JIT-compiled Ruby that's re-generated on every page load. Ruby programmers write everything in Ruby, and I want to write my back-end logic (and agents) in Ruby too.

    I found an old Builder class I made to accomplish this task, but it's very filesystem-bound, which I'd rather avoid. Still, I'm glad I dug it up to serve as a jumping-off point.

Best of all, I think this is all eminently practical. I'm excited. Are you excited?

Commenter Photo

Tommy Valand - Apr 13, 2012, 1:47 PM

It's really exciting (if it's possible to add support for several scripting languages), because it could make it easier when hiring people with PHP/Python/etc. background to get started with writing applications/getting familiar with the XPages platform.

Without control, you could end up with the tower of babel in regards to languages used in an application, but that's up to the development teams for future applications to decide how they want to restrict/allow languages used :)


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