What isn’t new in Ruby 1.9.1 (or in Python)

Like Josh Haberman, I was excited to see the changelog for Ruby 1.9, but immediately disappointed by its vagueness and terseness.

This list is meaningless to anyone who isn’t already familiar with the changes that have been happening in Ruby 1.9.x.

For someone like me who tried an older version of Ruby, there’s nothing to read that will tell me whether it’s worth checking out again.

Take this example, from the changelog:

  • IO operations
    • Many methods used to act byte-wise but now some of those act character-wise. You can use alternate byte-wise methods.

That’s terrifying. If I’m switching to a new version, I need to know exactly which methods have changed and which ones haven’t. Saying that “some” have changed is almost less helpful than saying nothing at all.

Here’s hoping that “improved documentation” will make it into a future Ruby 1.9.x release.

In the same blog post, Haberman makes some inaccurate assertions about Python’s encoding support:

Python has taken an “everything is Unicode” approach to character encoding — it doesn’t support any other encodings. Ruby on the other hand supports arbitrary encodings, for both Ruby source files and for data that Ruby programs deal with.

Incorrect. For the last five and a half years, since Python 2.3, source code in any encoding has been supported, and Python 3.0 will expect UTF-8 by default. And of course, Python supports exactly the same wide range of encodings for data. Python’s approach can best be described as “Unicode (via UTF-8) is default.”