A Rust Adventure

"Rust" and "Cargo" are registered trademarks of the Mozilla Foundation. Rust logo by the Mozilla Foundation is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

What is Rust?

Rust is a systems programming language that runs blazingly fast, prevents nearly all segfaults, and guarantees thread safety.-- Rust homepage

Why Rust? What's wrong with language X?

A little about Rust

Ownership and borrowing

Getting a taste

Open up the Rust playground (https://play.rust-lang.org) so we can try out some code.

Basic syntax

Very familiar to C++ and Java developers:

// Comments are written with two slashes.
/* Comments can also
   span multiple lines. */
fn main() { // Program starts in a `main()` function.
    // Variables can be assigned with `=`.
    let x = 4;
    // We can use all of the normal math operators.
    let y = (x / 2 + 20) * 4 % 46;
    // We can create booleans, strings, and floating point numbers.
    let awesome = true;
    let name = "Kuvira";
    // We use `let` for all types. Rust can usually figure out what
    // type it's supposed to be. If it can't, we have to tell it:
    let byte: u8 = 255;
    // Function calls use `()`. Namespaces are similar to C++.
    let square = num::pow(y, 2);

Available scalar data types:

Arrays and slices

// Arrays are fixed, like in C++ or Java.
// Their size is always known at compile time and is part of their type.
let numbers = [0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13];
println!("array size: {}", numbers.len());

// Slices let you borrow just a portion of an array.
let slice = &numbers[1 .. 4];
println!("{:?}", slice);


Arrays aren't always useful by themselves. We can use vectors to make a list of values that can change in size.

// Create a vector that stores floats.
let mut prices = Vec<f32>::new();

// Add some values to the vector.
println!("{:?}", prices);

Strings and string slices

// Rust has two types of strings.
// This is a String object. It is a modifiable vector of chars.
let mut string = String::new();

// This is a &str. It is a static slice of a String. It gives a view of a string.
let slice = "dog";


// Unlike vectors, tuples can store a mix of types, but
// they also have a fixed length.
let my_tuple = (42, "foo", 3.141);
println!("{:?}", my_tuple);
// We can access the positions as properties.
println!("PI is close to {}.", my_tuple.2);

// Tuples can also store other tuples.
let inception = ("square1", (0, 1), (3, 2));
println!("{}", (inception.1).0);

// Tuples can also be empty. An empty tuple is called the "unit type", and is often
// used to represent the concept of "nothing" (not directly related to null).
let empty = ();

An excursion on mutability

Notice let and let mut?

Control structures

Rust does away with a lot of the extra boilerplate in control structures that other languages tend to have.

let mut n = 5;

if n < 0 {
    println!("{} is negative", n);
} else if n > 0 {
    println!("{} is positive", n);
} else {
    println!("{} is zero", n);

while n < 21 {
    if n % 5 == 0 {
        println!("{} is divisible by 5.", n);
    n += 1;

For loops and iterators

for in loops are designed explicitly for looping over iterators (more on them later). We can create an iterator with range notation: a..b.

for n in 1..101 {
    if n % 15 == 0 {
    } else if n % 3 == 0 {
    } else if n % 5 == 0 {
    } else {
        println!("{}", n);


// Create a simple function that returns the absolute value of a number.
// We must specify the types of the parameters and the type returned.
fn absolute_value(number: i32) -> i32 {
    if number < 0 {
        // We can explicitly return a value any time with `return`...
        return 0 - number;

    // ... or let the return value be the last expression.

Next session:

Come back next week when the real fun begins!

Essential Rust

What we will be doing today:

Your friendly neighborhood rustc

Get out your laptops!

Installing Rust

  1. Go to http://www.rust-lang.org/downloads.html and download the package for your platform.

    Or on Linux or Mac:

    $ curl -sSf https://static.rust-lang.org/rustup.sh | sh
  2. Open a command window and type rustc -V

Hello, world!

Put the following program into hello.rs:

fn main() {
    println!("Hello, world!");

Compile it with:

$ rustc hello.rs


Structures example:

// Intriguing structs, no?
struct Point {
    pub x: i32,
    pub y: i32
struct Square {
    top_left: Point,
    bottom_right: Point
// Creating an instance of a struct (on the stack, BTW)
let my_square = Square{
    top_left: Point{x: 1, y: 1},
    bottom_right: Point{x: 3, y: 4}

But, but, but what about getters and setters?

Remember mutability and immutability? If the struct should not be modified, make it immutable. Getters and setters make sense sometimes, but they are rare in Rust code.

Note: Modules and visibility


Wait, what?

Let's try an example. Here's how we could implement a singly-linked list using enums:

// This declares a first-class type 'List'
enum List<T> {
    // A list can be either one of two variants: a node with a value...
    Node {
        value: T,
        next: List<T> // A node has a 'next' property holding another list node
    // ... or a tail.
    // The tail of the list has no value or next node.

You may have noticed generics...

Yeah, Rust has 'em. They're pretty much the same as in C++, C#, or Java.

So, yeah, moving on...

Now to the really cool stuff: Traits

Traits are like using LEGO® bricks for objects and types.

Programming to an interface with traits


struct Circle {
    x: f64,
    y: f64,
    radius: f64
// This is a trait for something that has area
trait HasArea {
    // Oh look, a reference to `self`, the current object (a.k.a. `this`)
    fn area(&self) -> f64;
// Now let's define how circles compute their area
impl HasArea for Circle {
    fn area(&self) -> f64 {
        std::f64::consts::PI * (self.radius * self.radius)

You did want inheritance, right?

trait Animal {
    pub fn speak();
trait Pet: Animal { // Pet trait extends Animal
    pub fn pet();

struct Lion {}
impl Animal for Lion { // Lion must implement speak()
    pub fn speak() {

struct Cat {}
impl Pet for Cat { // Cat must implement speak() *and* pet()
    pub fn speak() {
    pub fn pet() {
One more thing we should look at: borrowing

Instead of pointers and references, Rust uses borrowing to share values across code.

Sharing is caring

fn point_opposite(point: &Point) -> Point {
    Point(0 - point.0, 0 - point.1)

let p = Point(9, 7);
let opposite = point_opposite(&p);
println!("({}, {})", opposite.0, opposite.1);

This plays into "ownership" like we discussed before quite a bit.

Passing values around transfers ownership, while borrowing just lends the value to someone else for a bit.

Next session:

Come back next week for the last installment!

A simple, complete Rust program

What we will be doing today:

Option<T>: A world without null

Garbage collection

Destructuring with Drop

struct Foo;

impl Drop for Foo {
    fn drop(&mut self) {
        println!("Dropping a Foo!");

Heap allocation with Box

fn main() {
    let cat = Box::new(Cat);

A simple example program

Modelling the Fellowship of the Ring!


Cargo: easy libraries

Cargo is the easy way to handle libraries.

All the avaiable libraries are at http://crates.io.

The end.

Thanks for coming!

This presentation is available online at stephencoakley.com/presentations/rust-workshop.