TER Volume 14, Number 1, June 2007: Review of From Java to Ruby

Technology Electronic Reviews
Volume 14, Number 1, June 2007

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REVIEW OF: Bruce Tate (2006). From Java to Ruby: Things Every Manager Should Know. Raleigh, NC: The Pragmatic Bookshelf. (The Pragmatic Programmers). (The Facets of Ruby Series). (ISBN: 0976694093). 152pp. $29.95.

By Bradford Lee Eden

It has become obvious in the programming community that Java is not the end-all or be-all that it was promised to be. As a result, many Java programmers and users are looking for a simpler, more robust, and open source alternative. One of the more popular alternatives is Ruby, an open-source programming language implemented on Microsoft’s .NET framework. Web-enabled and database-backed, Ruby can also be implemented using the Ruby on Rails framework. The author, who has seen Ruby downloads and the Ruby community grow by leaps and bounds, has compiled this book to show managers how Ruby can better satisfy the needs of their clients and customers -- as well as save them money -- as an alternative to Java. Overall, the book provides an introduction to Ruby and Ruby on Rails; how and where Ruby can and can’t help, and where more development needs to be done; pilot strategies and case studies currently in the marketplace; and what the future holds for Ruby.

Chapter 1 contains a basic introduction to Ruby, an explanation of how the Java platform is weakening, and how the Ruby movement started and is gaining momentum. Chapter 2 toots the benefits and safety of using Java, but also shows how it provides poor productivity through its complex frameworks. In the end, the author indicates that implementing Ruby over Java is a risk, but in his mind, one well worth taking. In Chapter 3, the author provides evidence through visionaries, downloads, and books how Ruby is quickly gaining ground on Java. Ruby on Rails as a platform is explained, as well as how Ruby ramp-up and education in the short term will provide high-end productivity in the long term. Chapter 4 explains how to get started using Ruby, through identification of a business problem, building a team, and doing a pilot project. A number of scenarios are provided. Chapter 5 illustrates the many benefits and options available for using Ruby and Ruby on Rails. How Ruby interacts with middleware such as DBIs and APIs is also discussed. Building bridges between current Java applications and ones’s new Ruby applications is provided in Chapter 6. JRuby, a Ruby implementation in Java, is one such bridge that is described. Chapter 7 provides a wonderful road map for ramping up one’s organization to use Ruby, including building staff expertise, recruiting strategies, targeting programming languages, education, and mentoring. The concept of risk is examined in Chapter 8, and advice on how to deal with internal and external opposition to Ruby deployment is given.

Overall, this is a very interesting and well-written book that, in the current marketplace, challenges the assumption that Java is the best programming language for organizations. The author, although biased towards Ruby, does give a concise explanation of the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of the two programming languages, and thus provides an excellent, well-researched volume that could well move more programmers and organizations towards the Ruby language. I especially liked the grayed-in areas in the book, which provided interviews and comments from experts in the field. For those who wish a kind of Ruby-for-dummies book, geared towards managers and programmers wanting to understand this new programming language, this is the book for you.

Bradford Lee Eden is the Associate University Librarian for Technical Services and Scholarly Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Copyright © 2007 by Bradford Lee Eden. This document may be reproduced in whole or in part for noncommercial, educational, or scientific purposes, provided that the preceding copyright statement and source are clearly acknowledged. All other rights are reserved. For permission to reproduce or adapt this document or any part of it for commercial distribution, address requests to the author.

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