I was very excited to see MacRuby 0.5 beta 1 had been announced, complete with ahead of time compilation via LLVM. It has been long while since the previous update on the MacRuby blog in March, but clearly a lot of work has been taking place. At the moment this beta shows the promise of things to come but isn't yet fit for much more than anticipatory experimentation. If you want to try the macrubyc compiler, Antonio Cangiano's blog post on the topic is a must-read.
The MacRuby notes suggest that compiled ahead of time or not, it uses LLVM for a big speed win, but my own quick experiment showed the macruby interpreter to be about 3 times slower than the standard MRI Ruby 1.9.1. This was with a single small benchmark app only though, just to prove things were working, so I can't draw conclusions. I can't pretend I wasn't a little disappointed not to see MRI blown out of the water though, even though I know it's unscientific and wrong of me!
I couldn't get a fully compiled version to produce any output, though it appeared to run without barfing, so I couldn't tell if it was really working or not. It was notable that the compiled binary was nearly 15MB so there must be a lot of statically linked code being included to swell my couple of KB of Ruby code so much. I'm hopeful that this can be improved in the future in order to support my dream of iPhone apps being written with Ruby hooking into Cocoa. In fact more than a dream - I'm hopeful and optimistic that in the long-run Apple will make Ruby a heavily promoted first class citizen for Mac and iPhone development, sitting on top of Objective-C but hiding it for the most part. The whole world has moved on from primitive C-based languages to higher levels of abstraction and I think Apple really needs a successor to Objective-C within the next 5 years. Is MacRuby it?