Fast Date/DateTime classes for ruby :: Unmaintained, unnecessary on ruby 1.9.3+
Ruby C Ragel in Ruby Host
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home_run is an implementation of ruby's Date/DateTime classes in C, with much better performance (20-200x) than the version in the standard library, while being almost completely compatible.

Not necessary in 1.9.3+

Ruby 1.9.3+ replaced the old date library with one written in C, based partially on the design of home_run (but implemented differently). In most cases, if you are using Ruby 1.9.3+, you will not need to use home_run.

Performance increase (microbenchmarks)

The speedup you'll get depends mostly on your version of ruby, but also on your operating system, platform, and compiler. Here are some comparative results for common methods:

#                 | i386  | i386  | i386  | i386  | amd64 |
#                 |Windows| Linux | Linux | Linux |OpenBSD|
#                 | 1.8.6 | 1.8.7 | 1.9.1 | 1.9.2 | 1.9.2 |
#                 |-------+-------+-------+------ +-------|
Date.civil        |   82x |   66x |  27x  |  21x  |  14x  |
Date.parse        |   56x |   56x |  33x  |  30x  |  25x  |        |   17x |    6x |   2x  |   2x  |   2x  |
Date.strptime     |   43x |   62x |  63x  |  37x  |  23x  |
DateTime.civil    |  252x |  146x |  52x  |  41x  |  17x  |
DateTime.parse    |   52x |   54x |  32x  |  27x  |  20x  |      |   78x |   35x |  11x  |   8x  |   4x  |
DateTime.strptime |   63x |   71x |  58x  |  35x  |  23x  |
Date#strftime     |  156x |  104x | 110x  |  70x  |  62x  |
Date#+            |   34x |   32x |   5x  |   5x  |   4x  |
Date#<<           |  177x |  220x |  86x  |  72x  |  40x  |
Date#to_s         |   15x |    6x |   5x  |   4x  |   2x  |
DateTime#strftime |  146x |  107x | 114x  |  71x  |  60x  |
DateTime#+        |   34x |   37x |   8x  |   6x  |   3x  |
DateTime#<<       |   88x |  106x |  40x  |  33x  |  16x  |
DateTime#to_s     |  144x |   47x |  54x  |  29x  |  24x  |

Real world difference

The standard library Date class is slow enough to be the bottleneck in much (if not most) of code that uses it. Here's a real world benchmark showing the retrieval of data from a database (using Sequel), first without home_run, and then with home_run.

$ script/console production
Loading production environment (Rails 2.3.5)
>> require 'benchmark'
=> false
>> puts Benchmark.measure{Employee.all}
  0.270000   0.020000   0.290000 (  0.460604)
=> nil
>> puts Benchmark.measure{Notification.all}
  2.510000   0.050000   2.560000 (  2.967896)
=> nil

$ home_run script/console production
Loading production environment (Rails 2.3.5)
>> require 'benchmark'
=> false
>> puts Benchmark.measure{Employee.all}
  0.100000   0.000000   0.100000 (  0.114747)
=> nil
>> puts Benchmark.measure{Notification.all}
  0.860000   0.010000   0.870000 (  0.939594)

Without changing any application code, there's a 4x increase when retrieving all employees, and a 3x increase when retrieving all notifications. The main reason for the performance difference between these two models is that Employee has 5 date columns, while Notification only has 3.

Installing the gem

gem install home_run

The standard gem requires compiling from source, so you need a working compiler toolchain. Since few Windows users have a working compiler toolchain, a windows binary gem is available that works on both 1.8 and 1.9.

Installing into site_ruby

After installing the gem:

home_run --install

Installing into site_ruby means that ruby will always use home_run's Date/DateTime classes instead of the ones in the standard library.

If you ever want to uninstall from site_ruby:

home_run --uninstall

Running without installing into site_ruby

If you don't want to install into site_ruby, you can use home_run's Date/DateTime classes for specific programs by running your script using home_run:

home_run ruby ...
home_run irb ...
home_run unicorn ...
home_run rake ...

This manipulates the RUBYLIB and RUBYOPT environment variables so that home_run's Date/DateTime classes will be used.

You can also just require the library:

require 'home_run'

This should only be used as a last resort. Because rubygems requires date, you can end up with situations where the Date instances created before the require use the standard library version of Date, while the Date instances created after the require use this library's version. However, in some cases (such as on Heroku), this is the only way to easily use this library. If you need to do this and you are using Rails 3, make sure you require home_run before rails/all in config/application.rb.

Usage with bundler

Use the following in your Gemfile:

gem 'home_run', :require=>'date'

You need the :require option because otherwise it will require 'home_run', which can lead to problems.

Running the specs

You can run the rubyspec based specs after installing the gem, if you have MSpec installed (gem install mspec):

home_run --spec

If there are any failures, please report them as a bug.

Running comparative benchmarks

You can run the benchmarks after installing the gem:

home_run --bench

The benchmarks compare home_run's Date/DateTime classes to the standard library ones, showing you the amount of time an average call to each method takes for both the standard library and home_run, and the number of times home_run is faster or slower. Output is in CSV, so an entry like this:


means that:

  • The standard library's Date._parse averaged 362,562 nanoseconds per call.

  • home_run's Date._parse averaged 10,235 nanoseconds per call.

  • Therefore, home_run's Date._parse method is 35.42 times faster

The bench task tries to be fair by ensuring that it runs the benchmark for at least two seconds for both the standard library and home_run's versions.


home_run aims to be compatible with the standard library, except for differences mentioned below. So you can use it the same way you use the standard library.

Differences from standard library

  • Written in C (mostly) instead of ruby. Stores information in a C structure, and therefore has a range limitation. home_run cannot handle dates after 5874773-08-15 or before -5877752-05-08 on 32-bit platforms (with larger limits for 64-bit platforms).

  • The Date class does not store fractional days (e.g. hours, minutes), or offsets. The DateTime class does handle fractional days and offsets.

  • The DateTime class stores fractional days as the number of nanoseconds since midnight, so it cannot deal with differences less than a nanosecond.

  • Neither Date nor DateTime uses rational. Places where the standard library returns rationals, home_run returns integers or floats.

  • Because rational is not used, it is not required. This can break other libraries that use rational without directly requiring it.

  • There is no support for modifying the date of calendar reform, the sg arguments are ignored and the Gregorian calendar is always used. This means that julian day 0 is -4173-11-24, instead of -4712-01-01.

  • The undocumented Date#strftime format modifiers are not supported.

  • The DateTime offset is checked for reasonableness. home_run does not support offsets with an absolute difference of more than 14 hours from UTC.

  • DateTime offsets are stored in minutes, so it will round offsets with fractional minutes to the nearest minute.

  • All public class and instance methods for both Date and DateTime are implemented, except that on 1.9, _dump and _load are used instead of marshal_dump and marshal_load.

  • Only the public API is compatible, the private methods in the standard library are not implemented.

  • The marshalling format differs from the one used by the standard library. Note that the 1.8 and 1.9 standard library date marshalling formats differ from each other.

  • Date#step treats the step value as an integer, so it cannot handle steps of fractional days. DateTime#step can handle fractional day steps, though.

  • When parsing the %Q modifier in _strptime, the hash returned includes an Integer :seconds value and a Float :sec_fraction value instead of a single rational :seconds value.

  • The string returned by #inspect has a different format, since it doesn't use rational.

  • The conversion of 2-digit years to 4-digit years in Date._parse is set to true by default. On ruby 1.8, the standard library has it set to false by default.

  • You can use the Date::Format::STYLE hash to change how to parse DD/DD/DD and DD.DD.DD date formats, allowing you to get ruby 1.9 behavior on 1.8 or vice-versa. This is probably the only new feature in that isn't in the standard library.

Any other differences will either be documented here or considered bugs, so please report any other differences you find.

Known incompatibilities

Some other libraries are known to be incompatible with this extension due to the above differences:

  • ActiveSupport 3.1 - DateTime#<=> broken because it relies on Date#<=> working for DateTimes.

  • Date::Performance - Date#<=> assumes @ajd instance variable (unnecessary anyway, as home_run is faster)

  • Runt - assumes @ajd instance variable

Reporting issues/bugs

home_run uses GitHub Issues for tracking issues/bugs:


The source code is on GitHub:

To get a copy:

git clone git://

There are a few requirements:

  • rake

  • rake-compiler

  • MSpec (not RSpec) for running the specs. The specs are based on the rubyspec specs, which is why they use MSpec.

  • RDoc 2.5.10+ if you want to build the documentation.

  • Ragel 6.5+ if you want to modify the ragel parser.


To compile the library from a git checkout, after installing the requirements:

rake compile


The default rake task runs the specs, so just run:


You need to compile the library and install MSpec before running the specs.


To see the speedup that home_run gives you over the standard library:

rake bench

To see how much less memory home_run uses compared to the standard library:

rake mem_bench

To see how much less garbage is created when instantiating objects with home_run compared to the standard library:

rake garbage_bench

If you want to run all three benchmarks at once:

rake bench_all

Platforms Supported

home_run has been tested on the following:

Operating Systems/Platforms

  • Linux (x86_64, i386)

  • Mac OS X 10.6 (x86_64, i386), 10.5 (i386)

  • OpenBSD (amd64, i386)

  • Solaris 10 (sparc)

  • Windows XP (i386)

  • Windows 7 (x64)

Compiler Versions

  • gcc (3.3.5, 4.0.1, 4.2.1, 4.4.3, 4.5.0)

  • Sun Studio Compiler (5.9)

Ruby Versions

  • jruby cext branch (as of commit 1969c504229bfd6f2de1, 2010-08-23, compiles and runs specs correctly, segfaults on benchmarks)

  • rbx head (as of commit 0e265b92727cf3536053, 2010-08-16)

  • ruby 1.8.6 (p0, p110, p398, p399)

  • ruby 1.8.7 (p174, p248, p299, p302)

  • ruby 1.9.1 (p243, p378, p429, p430)

  • ruby 1.9.2 (p0)

  • ruby head

If your platform, compiler version, or ruby version is not listed above, please test and send me a report including:

* Your operating system and platform (e.g. i386, x86_64/amd64)
* Your compiler
* Your ruby version
* The output of home_run --spec
* The output of home_run --bench


Jeremy Evans <>