My hosting service, DreamHost, finally upgraded their Ruby installation from 1.6.x to 1.8.2. This should allow me to play with all the recent Ruby software, including the Ruby on Rails web framework, which I’ve heard great things about.

I’ve always wanted to learn Ruby, and Ruby on Rails may be a good opportunity to finally do this (I wrote a few simple one-off scripts a couple of years ago, but not enough for the language syntax to really stick). In many ways, it seems to directly compete with the more lightweight J2EE frameworks, such as Spring (which I’m also currently reading up on). Professionally, I’m quite happy working with Java, and these days I feel that there are enough great, open source Java-based solutions out there that allow powerful and scalable Java applications to be developed fairly easily. However, for personal projects such as websites, I’ve usually gone with php based solutions, mostly because it is easy to find good, cheap hosting services for php, whereas Java hosting usually still costs quite a bit more… I’ve never been a big fan of php itself though, and while I love WordPress, most other php based web solutions I’ve seen are quite ugly once you look at the underlying code.

Now that Ruby is becoming an option with cheap hosting services, Ruby based web software may be a great alternative to php, and Ruby on Rails sounds like a great framework to build on. Even outside of the web context, learning Ruby would certainly be a worthwhile investment, as it is a very nice scripting language that can be used as a better alternative to Perl or other shell scripting languages.