Monthly Archives: January 2015

Getting Started with Haskell – Comprehending List Comprehensions

As promised, we are now in the Season of Haskell.  I decided to spend this week with some baby steps and also try to figure out what resources to use to get started.  I had heard good things about Learn You a Haskell For Great Good and Real World Haskell.  I felt like reading the first few chapters of each would give me a feel for the book styles and let me narrow my focus.

I have to say that there are certainly some neat things that Haskell can do in a fairly terse syntax. List comprehensions are pretty cool. There is an example in Learn You a Haskell that allows you to find all the right triangles with a hypotenuse less than 10 in one (fairly) simple line, once you start to grok the syntax.

[ (a,b,c) | c <- [1..10], b <- [1..c], a <- [1..b], a^2 + b^2 == c^2] 

What this says is get me the list of points, actually tuples, (a,b,c) where

  • c is drawn from the range 1..10
  • b is drawn from a range of 1..c
  • a is drawn from a range of 1..b
  • and the predicate function a^2 + b^2 == c^2 is applied to test that it is a right triangle

The result is [(3,4,5),(6,8,10)]

Versus something like this in Ruby

rightTriangles = []
(1..10).each do |c|
  (1..c).each do |b|
    (1..b).each do |a|
      if (a**2 + b**2 == c**2)
        rightTriangles << [a,b,c]
      end
    end
  end
end

Obviously Ruby has a lot of other strengths going for it, but clearly this is the type of problem where functional languages may shine. And who knows, there may be ways to bring some of these ideas into my Ruby programming. Might be a good time to re-watch Pat Shaughnessy’s talk on Functional Programming and Ruby.

I’m curious to see what comes next.

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Book Review – Effective Ruby by Peter J. Jones

Effective Ruby

One of the great strengths of Ruby is that it is easy to pick up and be productive right out of the gate. But Ruby is such a rich, full-featured language that there are probably a lot of things you aren’t aware of that can make you a better developer.

I recently received a copy of Effective Ruby by Peter J. Jones, and I really enjoyed it.  This book is a good addition for beginner and intermediate Ruby developers to learn more of the language features and write better, more maintainable code.  The author has geared the book towards people who have some experience with Ruby and points out some of the common pitfalls that developers new to Ruby might face.

The book has 48 items to help you improve your code and covers everything from Ruby basics to an overview of the garbage collector.  As someone who has been using Ruby for a few years, I learned a few new things about collections, Ruby’s inheritance hierarchy, exceptions, and performance tips.

I thought the section on testing was a little thin, but there are entire books dedicated to testing and it is a tough topic to address in a single chapter.  I think the author’s intention is just to make the reader aware of the testing tools and methodologies available.

All in all, I thought this was a good read.  I’ll keep it handy and look forward to applying and experimenting with some of the ideas.