Patrick McKenzie Winner RPCFN #5

by Satish Talim on January 21, 2010

In this brief interview, Satish Talim of RubyLearning talks to Patrick McKenzie of Japan, winner of the fifth Ruby Programming Challenge For Newbies.

Patrick McKenzie

Satish>> Welcome Patrick and thanks for taking out time to share your thoughts. For the benefit of the readers, could you tell us something about your self?

Patrick>> Thanks Satish for the opportunity. My name is Patrick McKenzie and by day I work on big freaking Java web apps at a Japanese corporation in Nagoya. By night, I run a small software business, which sells desktop software written in Java and a web application written in Ruby on Rails. I also blog a bit, mostly on business and programming topics.

Satish>> How did you get involved with Ruby programming?

Patrick>> About two years ago, when I was trying to make my business’ website a little more impressive than hand-coded HTML everywhere, I thought writing myself a custom CMS (content management system) would help me produce things my customers would like faster than writing them all by hand. However, since I could only do it on nights and weekends, I couldn’t exactly find the time to do it on the J2EE stack. I bought a pair of books on Ruby on Rails, fell in love with Ruby, and the rest is history.

Satish>> Could you name three features of Ruby that you like the most, as compared to other languages? Why?

Patrick>> It would be hard to limit it to three, but here goes:

1. A lot of Ruby code functions rather like Unix: small, discrete bits of code which operate together very well. For example, to read a property file in Ruby:

File.readlines("property.txt").map {|line| line.split("#")[0]}.map
{|line| line.split("=")}.inject({}) {|hash, couplet|
hash[couplet[0]]=couplet[1]; hash}

does all the work for you. That is a trivial example in Ruby which would take me almost a page to write in Java (well, assuming I wasn’t using a library function, but you get the drift.)

2. I think the community for a language matters. The Ruby community is amazing and has been very generous with their time in producing OSS code, documentation on the Internet, and the gem infrastructure, which lets me get more impressive things done faster and with less pain.

3. I really like having IRB and its cousin the Rails console, which lets me dive right in among my objects and see the world from their eyes, so to speak. Often when coding I have IRB open in another window so that I can test my assumption of what a particular bit of code would result in prior to using it.

Satish>> How was experience of taking part in the Ruby Programming Challenge For Newbies (RPCFN)?

Patrick>> It was amazingly fun — thank you for running the challenge. As soon as I heard the maze solving challenge I thought “Well, let’s see, you can read in the maze, construct a graph from it, and then use breadth first search” but I thought that there would probably be a hundred implementations of that. So I decided to do something a little different and solve it with regular expressions. The key insight for me was that if the width of the maze is constant that you can write a regular expression which skips to the same column on the next line.

Satish>> How is the Ruby and Rails scenario in your country Japan?

Patrick>> My industry is currently dominated by expensive web applications written in Java, but I think the future for Ruby is bright. There is a certain deal of pride in the fact that Ruby is a Japanese language and probably the most well-known bit of Japanese software that is not a video game. My impression is that Rails is increasingly popular, too. I have tried to promote both internally at my company, and we’ve had some success with them.

Satish>> What are your future plans?

Patrick>> I recently made the decision to quit my day job and go full-time with my software business. I expect I will be developing more applications in Rails.

Thank you Patrick and all the very best with your software business. In case you have any queries and/or questions, kindly post your questions here (as comments to this blog post) and Patrick would be glad to answer.

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Posted by Satish Talim

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Raoul Felix January 21, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Congrats Patrick McKenzie,
Your solution is very interesting! The way you used the regexps to solve this is very cool – plus reading the code helped me practice my Regexp-Fu.

I also just wanted to say thanks to Satish Talim for creating the RPCFN which is very fun to do. And say thanks to Peter Cooper and Jeff Savin for their feedback.

I really wasn’t expecting to come 2nd place, so thanks for making my day! :)

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