... bytes and babes of JRuby

Ruby Arrays and Java Lists

Code samples target JRuby and might not work in earlier versions.

Java Integration received a serious boost in JRuby 9.1 and not just in terms of actual speed. There’s more consistency, effectiveness and edge case handling going on.

Let’s look at Java’s most used collection java.util.ArrayList. Java, being a static language, uses interfaces (to specify a common “quack-like” behavior for objects) and array lists (conform) implement the java.util.List interface.

Unlike Java or other languages, Ruby does not have a separate array and list type, instead Array acts like a mutable (unless freeze happens) list of elements.

In fact, when a Ruby Array is making it into a Java method it will do top-notch when the parameter is of a list type (RubyArray implements java.util.List).

Likewise, Java lists behave like Ruby’s array type, esp. java.util.ArrayList :

list = [1, 2]
list.get(0) # 1
list[-1] # 2
list[10] # nil
list[3] = 0 # [1, 2, nil, 0]
list.index(0) # 3
list.rindex { |e| e.nil? } # 2
list[-3, 2] # [2, nil] sub-list
list.first(2) # [1, 2] sub-list
list.last(2) # [nil, 0] sub-list

Compared to the list’s native get(int) the [] method does not raise on out of bounds and negative indexes and has all the functionality of an Array#[]. The array-like behavior is added to the java.util.List interface - acts as a module in Ruby land. The above snippet thus works for any type (implementing the interface) e.g. java.util.Stack or java.util.LinkedList.

Internally, index and rindex fall-back to list iterators for non random access list, compared to always looping using (ineffective) get positioning previously.

list =
list << 'c'; list << 'aaa'; list << 'bb'
list2 = list.dup # cloned LinkedList (same elements)
list2.sort! { |e1, e2| e1.size <=> e2.size }
java.util.LinkedList.class_eval { alias sort ruby_sort }
list = list.sort
list.class == java.util.LinkedList
list != list2 # true ['aaa', 'bb', 'c'] != ['c', 'bb', 'aaa']

The later example show how Java collections dup very much like Ruby objects. There’s alias sort ruby_sort to handle the native sort method added to lists since Java 8. JRuby favors existing Java methods (they’re coming from the class while sort is on the java.util.List mixin), but provides a convention for dealing with common ambiguities. Using the ruby_sort name the Ruby-like manner might be brought in as needed. Lastly, the Ruby sort returns the same object type as its invoked on, which wasn’t the case before JRuby 9.1.

Explaining ambiguities, the first example (literally) won’t work, since there’s the getFirst() instance method on java.util.LinkedList which is recognized as a getter (Java reader) and maps to first() without any method parameters :

list = [1, 2]
list[3] = 0 # [1, 2, nil, 0]
java.util.LinkedList.class_eval { alias first ruby_first }
list.first(2) # [1, 2] sub-list
list.ruby_last(2) # [nil, 0] sub-list

Check-out the doc for more about upgrades everyday Java types are eligible to.