Freeze your constants in Ruby
Years ago I was working on a very large Ruby on Rails codebase that used constants to hold lists of credit card transaction states. In this post I’ll be covering why freezing these constants is paramount.
Consider this example:
# example 1 class Txn ACTIONABLE_STATES = [:authenticated, :to_settle] DONE_STATES = [:settled, :declined] # ... end
However, we had a bug in which a settled transaction could pass a
txn.state.in? ACTIONABLE_STATES check. After hours of searching, we found the
offending code in a completely different part of the codebase.
# example 2 all_states = ACTIONABLE_STATES.concat(DONE_STATES) all_states.each do |state| # ... end
If you’re already knowledgeable of the Ruby
Array class, you’ve probably spotted the offending line already.
#concat mutates the original list, even though it doesn’t end with the idiomatic
!, and because
ACTIONABLE_STATES is held statically in memory, when this code gets executed it changes
ACTIONABLE_STATES state for the rest of that Ruby virtual machine’s life.
In other words, after example 2 gets executed,
[:authenticated, :to_settle, :settled, :declined] until you reboot the server.
If you have multiple Ruby boxes running behind a Load Balancer (as we did), this can further obfuscate the problem. Because example 2 might only have been run on certain boxes, you might get cases where one request will not exhibit the bug while another identical one will.
The solution? Freeze your constants.
# example 3 ACTIONABLE_STATES = [:authenticated, :to_settle].freeze DONE_STATES = [:settled, :declined].freeze
This would cause example 2 to produce a
can't modify frozen array (RuntimeError), and if you’ve unit tested example 2, you would’ve hopefully caught this before it was ever even deployed.