Scott Hanselman

It's been one of those Old School Weeks

July 29, 2003 Comment on this post [2] Posted in Web Services | Bugs | Tools
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Sometimes a lot of "Old School" technology seems to pop up all at once.  It's Tuesday and already I've worked on two old school issues.  Here's what I told them and learned myself:

Viewing a PDF inside of Internet Explorer doesn't work when ActiveX is turned off in IE Security

From a user's point of view, there are two implementations of ActiveX technology in Internet Explorer: ActiveX Controls (created with an <object> tag in an HTML page) and ActiveX Documents (created when IE sees a mime/type that is handled by an registered application.)

When you open up a Word Document or a Adobe PDF and it appears INSIDE Internet Explorer that is an "ActiveX Document."   When you open up an HTML page that contains en <embed> or <object> tag that is an "ActiveX Control."

Both of these technologies, along with "Authenticode" (when a dialog pops up and warns you about downloading code, do you trust, etc.) are collectively, to the layman, "ActiveX."

When you turn off ActiveX in the IE Tools|Options|Security you are affecting ActiveX Documents as well.  If you click on a PDF and try to open it in IE, you'll likely get a blank page or a "broken window" graphic.  You'll be unable to View|Source because there is no HTML source to view!

Use of NEW on one line in Visual Basic 6 - as in "Dim oX as New Thing"

In VB6, what is the difference SPECIFICIALLY between: 

    Dim oCalcutta As FooBar
   Set oCalcutta = New FooBar


    Dim oCalcutta As New FooBar

 Is there a speed difference? (there doesn’t appear to be a major one) COM difference? (are internals handled differently?)

Turns out there is a difference.  (Thanks to Stephen Forte, Francesco Balena, Ralf Westphal, and especially Henrik Nielsen)

When you write code like this:

  Dim obj As New Class1

Then each reference to a member such as:


will be compiled to the following code (pseudo-code):

  If obj Is Nothing Then
    Set obj = New Class1
  End If

This of course implies a certain performance hit – but I wouldn’t expect it to be in any way significant.

Much more important (in my opinion) is the difference in semantics (which follows from the above) between the two constructions:

  Dim obj As Class1
  Set obj = New Class1
  Set obj = Nothing


  Dim obj As New Class1
  Set obj = Nothing

The first construction will result in a run-time error (Object variable or With block variable no set) and the second will not.

UPDATE: Some wisdom from Dan Appleman. "The reason [you're told] not to use [a Dim on one line] is that this can result in subtle bugs - especially during cleanup - when you are either accidentally recreating objects you think you cleaned up, or are referencing new objects when you accidentally cleared old ones."

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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July 30, 2003 1:19
The first comment (re: ActiveX) was no shocker (I would not even be surprised if IE actually internally creates a basic <body><object /></body> for ActiveX Documents).

August 01, 2003 5:57
This is one of my standard VB6 tech interview questions for VB "experts". Almost all of them go into a "late binding vs. early binding" spiel. Really! Now I guess I have to get another expert level VB question.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.