OLE and the subtlety of software bugs


In the early 90’s we were preparing design documents that used Microsoft’s Object Linking and Embedding to bring the content of multiple programs together in one document. We found that linking worked fine, but embedding failed (it might have been the other way around, I don’t recall). So we called the Microsoft support line (which, believe it or not, had a live DJ on hold instead of canned music). When we got through to technical support and explained our problem, they asked us what our default Windows printer was. When we told them it was an HP xxx, they told us to choose a different default printer while we were performing the OLE operation. Sure enough when we changed default printer, it worked fine. Then we changed the default printer back and were able to print the document on that printer without a problem.

Now, as is the case for all software bugs there was a completely logical explanation, but the choice of a default printer wouldn’t exactly be the obvious place to investigate an OLE bug.

Comments (7)

7 responses to “OLE and the subtlety of software bugs”

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    Yes, there were some wonderful bugs back then. There still are, to be honest. Don't select this, when that is active!

    WordPerfect in 1990 was the first support line I experienced with a live DJ, he would also "interview" support and development staff and they would give out tips, while you were waiting.

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    If we're talking the early to mid 1990s, there were many doozies of bugs, not just Windows but also a lot of 3rd party software. All the ISVs were getting used to Windows, and MSFT was still figuring out some things itself. Bugs were bound to happen, but needing to change a printer driver implies some weirdness with buffers and caches.

    FWLIW, the bug back then which caused me the most problems was due to my employer at the time rolling out Lotus 1-2-3 Release 5 to some field offices but not others, and failing to check whether any department-level applications had any problems with that new version.

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    I remember a Tech-Ed session I attended. The head of Windows 3.1 was sitting around with people and discussing issues. It was surprising to me how many of the problems were related to video drivers. Things you wouldn't even expect, would be the video driver. I went out of that session more confused than when I went in. Sure enough, when i went back to the office and updated video drivers, many of the problems went away. Drivers have come a long way (and of course, so has the Windows driver model that has developed through the years).

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      In reply to BeckoningEagle:

      Yes, and the driver writers still haven't gotten any better at quality. There are always new problems that crop up, which leaves most companies reluctant to install new drivers, because they "sort of" work and are relatively stable, but the new ones might stop the network card working or crash the LoB application...

      It is very frustrating. "We need to fix this zero day!" "No, can't do that, the driver hasn't been certified by our application supplier!" (And probably never will be :-( )

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    This is like the kernel bug with the 32-bit images of Windows 10 1903. If you remove Windows Fax & Scan from the list of bundled components, it causes a BSOD on bootup. It doesn't happen in the 64-bit versions. It's such a stupid package, but you'll completely destroy the Windows install by removing it - in the 32-bit version.

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    On a less relevant and less important note, I discovered a couple months ago that NHL 04 with the Rebuilt mod installed (which is awsome by the way) wouldnt load in Windows 10 with a bluetooth mouse connected. It was called the white screen of death, and had stumped people for years for the cause because not everyone suffered from it. My contribution to humanity is now complete.

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