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Modules, Mixins and Comparators in Ruby

As your program and range of names grows, you may find that you have code that's going to cause potential name space conflicts - repeated names. That was something that OO elegantly solves for classes of objects, but perhaps you want the equivalent of a class that doesn't instantiate anything?

You're looking for a NAMESPACE that's loaded in - probably with a REQUIRE from a MODULE. Example to follow .... but we can't stress the importance of namespaces and modules as your application grows. Not put too strongly, all the standard stuff in the libraries is in modules, and it's a very good ides for you to mimic the principle.

Here's an example module:

module Taxcalc
  VAT_RATE = 17.5
  def Taxcalc.net(gross)
    net = gross / (100.0 + VAT_RATE) * 100.0
    return net
  def Taxcalc.tax(gross)
    tax = gross - net(gross)

and a program to use it:

require "taxcalc"

amount = 70.50

shopkeeper = Taxcalc.net(amount)
vatman = Taxcalc.tax(amount)

print "#{vatman} to the taxman\n"
print "#{shopkeeper} to the supplier\n"
print "Tax rate is #{Taxcalc::VAT_RATE}\n"

Note that we precede methods with "modulename." so that they're just like a static method, and we precede variables within the module with :: - not something you'll do all the time, but useful (in our example) to get directly at the VAT rate.

The programs runs as you would hope:

earth-wind-and-fire:~/ruby/r119 grahamellis$ ruby wot.rb
10.5 to the taxman
60.0 to the supplier
Tax rate is 17.5
earth-wind-and-fire:~/ruby/r119 grahamellis$


If you include a module within a class, then the members of that module also become available as methods in the class. This is a superb way to add in functionality to a whole lot of classes, and in essence does away with any need for multiple inheritance in very much the same way that Java's interfaces to away with the need for multiple inheritance in that language.

Let's define an application with a a class of invoice objects, and then mix in an updated tax module that defines instance methods as well as module/class methods.

Here's the updates tax module - remember, this is going o be mixed in so it contains a number of methods I want to pull into my Invoice class but no actual objects.

module Tcalc
  VAT_RATE = 17.5
  def getnet
    net = @howmuch / (100.0 + VAT_RATE) * 100.0
    return net
  def gettax
    tax = @howmuch - self.getnet

And here's the code that calls in those methods into the Invoice class

require "tcalc"

class Invoice
   include Tcalc # The line that mixes
   def initialize(what,howmuch)
      @what = what
      @howmuch = howmuch
   def getgross
      return @howmuch
   def getwhat
      return @what

bills = [Invoice.new("Stefano",240.00),

account_line = "%-20s %8.2f %8.2f %8.2f\n"
acl2 = account_line.gsub(".2f","s")

ntot = ttot = gtot = 0.0
print acl2 % ["Descripton", "net", "tax", "gross"]
print acl2 % ["", "=====", "=====", "====="]
bills.each do |bill|
   person = bill.getwhat
   ntot += (net = bill.getnet)
   ttot += (tax = bill.gettax)
   gtot += (gross = bill.getgross)
   print account_line % [person, net, tax, gross]
print acl2 % ["", "=====", "=====", "====="]
print account_line % ["TOTAL", ntot, ttot, gtot]

And the result of running that code

earth-wind-and-fire:~/ruby/r119 grahamellis$ ruby mixdem.rb
Descripton net tax gross
                        ===== ===== =====
Stefano 204.26 35.74 240.00
Andy 153.19 26.81 180.00
Lionel 68.09 11.91 80.00
Bruce 51.06 8.94 60.00
                        ===== ===== =====
TOTAL 476.60 83.40 560.00
earth-wind-and-fire:~/ruby/r119 grahamellis$


One of the big uses of mixins in Ruby is to bring in standard groups of methods to your own class. A really good example of this is the Comparable module .... if you want to redefine the six operators < <= > >= == and <=> in a class that you've written, then you can do so, or you can make your life easy by using Comparable and just redefining <=>.

Let's compare the delivery order of some letters for Postman Pat, who has gone high Tech and has Ruby doing his sorting for him ... with the assistance of Jess the cat.

"This demonstration defines a class of objects
of type Delivery which are house numbers and the
name of the recipient. The postman needs to see
which object to deliver first and which second,
and in order to do so he goes up the even numbers
then back down the odd numbers.

For readers who are not from the UK, British streets
are usually numbered back and forth across the road
so that you have 1,3,5,7 etc. on one side and 2,4,6,8
etc. on the other. And with modern busy traffic, the
postman does NOT want to keep crossing!!"

class Delivery
   include Comparable
   def initialize(number,name)
   def getnumber
   def <=> (partner)
      print "I'll ask Jess\n"
      return -1 if @number.modulo(2) != 0 and
   partner.getnumber.modulo(2) == 0
      return 1 if @number.modulo(2) == 0 and
   partner.getnumber.modulo(2) != 0
      return partner.getnumber <=> @number if
   @number.modulo(2) == 0
      return @number <=> partner.getnumber
   def to_s
      "Deliver to #{@name} at #{@number}"

gordon = Delivery.new(10,"Mr Dodge")
graham = Delivery.new(404,"Mr Ellis")
reggie = Delivery.new(22,"Dr Dodson")
kim = Delivery.new(25,"Ms Ellis")
chris = Delivery.new(15,"Mr Ellis")

print kim," before ",chris,"\n" if kim < chris
print chris," before ",kim,"\n" if kim >= chris

print reggie," before ",chris,"\n" if reggie < chris
print chris," before ",reggie,"\n" if reggie >= chris

print reggie," before ",graham,"\n" if reggie < graham
print graham," before ",reggie,"\n" if reggie >= graham

print reggie," before ",gordon,"\n" if reggie < gordon
print gordon," before ",reggie,"\n" if reggie >= gordon

print reggie," before ",kim,"\n" if reggie < kim
print kim," before ",reggie,"\n" if reggie >= kim

And running the program:

earth-wind-and-fire:~/ruby/r119 grahamellis$ ruby pat.rb
I'll ask Jess
I'll ask Jess
Deliver to Mr Ellis at 15 before Deliver to Ms Ellis at 25
I'll ask Jess
I'll ask Jess
Deliver to Mr Ellis at 15 before Deliver to Dr Dodson at 22
I'll ask Jess
I'll ask Jess
Deliver to Mr Ellis at 404 before Deliver to Dr Dodson at 22
I'll ask Jess
Deliver to Dr Dodson at 22 before Deliver to Mr Dodge at 10
I'll ask Jess
I'll ask Jess
I'll ask Jess
Deliver to Ms Ellis at 25 before Deliver to Dr Dodson at 22
earth-wind-and-fire:~/ruby/r119 grahamellis$

See also Ruby Programming course

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