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Ruby's Hidden do {} while () Loop

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Jeremy Voorhis

Posts: 212
Nickname: jvoorhis
Registered: Oct, 2005

Jeremy Voorhis is a Rubyist in northeast Ohio.
Ruby's Hidden do {} while () Loop Posted: Jun 12, 2007 8:37 PM
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I found the following snippet while reading the source for Tempfile#initialize in the Ruby core library:

begin
  tmpname = File.join(tmpdir, make_tmpname(basename, n))
  lock = tmpname + '.lock'
  n += 1
end while @@cleanlist.include?(tmpname) or
  File.exist?(lock) or File.exist?(tmpname)
At first glance, I assumed the while modifier would be evaluated before the contents of begin...end, but that is not the case. Observe:

>> begin
?>   puts "do {} while ()" 
>> end while false
do {} while ()
=> nil
As you would expect, the loop will continue to execute while the modifier is true.

>> n = 3
=> 3
>> begin
?>   puts n
>>   n -= 1
>> end while n > 0
3
2
1
=> nil
While I would be happy to never see this idiom again, begin...end is quite powerful. The following is a common idiom to memoize a one-liner method with no params:

def expensive
  @expensive ||= 2 + 2
end
Here is an ugly, but quick way to memoize something more complex:

def expensive
  @expensive ||=
    begin
      n = 99
      buf = "" 
      begin
        buf << "#{n} bottles of beer on the wall\n" 
        # ...
        n -= 1
      end while n > 0
      buf << "no more bottles of beer" 
    end
end

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