Ruby and Fortran libraries

I’ve been trying to learn Fortran for reasons of: future job security; masochism; curiousity.

Since having a REPL for a language makes learning it so much easier, I wrote one in ruby, called frepl. It is pretty buggy, and needs serious refactoring, but mostly works. After having written it, I was informed that there are other such efforts, e.g. in Python, but after cursory examination, they seem a bit less REPL-y than frepl.

I also have been interested in calling Fortran from Ruby, with the ultimate goal of perhaps being able to benefit from Fortran’s superior array-handling abilities for doing machine learning work in ruby. Turns out this is somewhat possible with ruby-ffi. I say “somewhat” because it is not very ergonomic to call Fortran from Ruby, as far as I can tell, and of the solutions I’ve come up with, some seem unstable (as in, occasionally produce segfaults), especially when trying to interact with Fortran derived types.

The ruby-fortran FFI proof-of-concept is here, along with some benchmarks. As I suspected/hoped, Fortran is much faster than ruby at some array manipulation tasks, e.g. summing an array is ~10x faster, doing dot product is ~2x faster. I mean, when using Fortran without the FFI/Ruby overhead, I suspect the speed differences are even more pronounced–these numbers are specifically with regard to pure ruby vs. ruby-calling-fortran.

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