Microsoft Calls on the Ruby Community

If you're confused about Microsoft's stance on open source, it will get more interesting this month. The company is planning to release a pre-alpha version of the source code for its .NET implementation of Ruby as a hosted project on RubyForge by the end of August. "What we're really interested in doing is getting contributions back into the libraries," says John Lam, creator of the open source RubyCLR, who joined Microsoft as a program manager in January. "So our release on RubyForge is explicitly so that the community can help us."

RubyForge is a popular hosting site for open source Ruby projects and it makes sense to put the project there, according to Lam, because developers check their code in and out of Subversion, a widely used open source repository. Microsoft's shared source code site, CodePlex, is based on Team Foundation Server, which isn't readily accessible to the open source Ruby community.

Dynamic Language Plans IronRuby is the second .NET implementation from Microsoft that's based on an open source dynamic language. The first, IronPython, which shipped in August 2006, was developed to run directly on the .NET 2.0 Common Language Runtime (CLR). Announced at MIX07, along with Silverlight 1.1 for .NET, IronRuby is designed to take advantage of Microsoft's upcoming Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR), a set of services on top of the CLR. Microsoft plans to build four dynamic language implementations -- IronRuby, IronPython, Dynamic Visual Basic (VB 10) and Managed JScript.

"The main reason we're not accepting contributions back into the [IronRuby] compiler is that the interfaces between the compiler and the DLR haven't been finalized and probably won't be for about a year," explains Lam. "The DLR itself is going to ship along with the next version of the CLR, so we want to make sure that from an IP standpoint we're very clean on that stuff."

Limited Availability When the DLR is finalized, Microsoft will "fully open up" the IronRuby compiler on RubyForge to get contributions back, he adds. There are no plans right now for Visual Studio tooling due to a lack of resources. Lam has been approached by several people who are interested in doing Visual Studio integration as part of the open source work on the project. His standard response: "If you guys want to go off and do some of that work, it would be fantastic."

All of the IronRuby source code will be released under a Microsoft Permissive License. Contributors will need to sign a standard contributors' agreement, and the code will be available for commercial and non-commercial use.

Currently, there are no plans to release the IronRuby source code on CodePlex, though IronPython and some DLR bits are on CodePlex under a Microsoft Permissive License.

In another Ruby .NET development, SapphireSteel Software released the first beta of its Ruby Connector, a plug-in for its Visual Studio 2005 extension Ruby in Steel. With the connector, developers can create "visual front-ends" for their Ruby programs using the Visual Studio form designer, enabling Visual Basic or C# to call Ruby classes, variables and methods. The connector will be integrated in Ruby in Steel 1.2 when it ships, and is available now to registered users.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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