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Learn to Program with Visual Basic.NET

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Join Professor Smiley's Visual Basic .NET class as he teaches essential skills in programming, coding, and more. Using a student-instructor conversational format, this book starts at the very beginning with crucial programming fundamentals. You'll quickly learn how to identify customer needs so you can create an application that achieves programming objectives -- just like experienced programmers. By identifying clear client goals, you'll learn important programming basics -- like how computers view input and ...
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Join Professor Smiley's Visual Basic .NET class as he teaches essential skills in programming, coding, and more. Using a student-instructor conversational format, this book starts at the very beginning with crucial programming fundamentals. You'll quickly learn how to identify customer needs so you can create an application that achieves programming objectives -- just like experienced programmers. By identifying clear client goals, you'll learn important programming basics -- like how computers view input and execute output based on the information they are given -- then use those skills to develop real-world applications. Participate in this one-of-a-kind classroom experience and see why Professor Smiley is renowned for making learning fun and easy.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
If you've read our review of Learn to Program with Java, you know we admire John Smiley's exclusive "simulated classroom/real project" approach to teaching programming to beginners. Smiley's taught more than 100,000 programmers this way: His approach works.

In Learn to Program with Visual Basic .NET, Smiley brings his simulated classroom to Microsoft's new VB.NET. VB was already one of the world's easier languages, and this book makes it even simpler. If you've always wanted to learn to program, start here. If you learned another language years ago and you want to modernize your rusty skills, start here. If you've programmed with VB before but never achieved mastery, start here.

This book's project, a kiosk that provides quotes and information to the customers of a store that sells china, offers a unifying framework for the entire course. Assuming nothing, Smiley guides you through each key programming concept: requirements gathering, basic syntax, user interfaces, managing data, loops, strings, writing to files and printers, arrays, and VB.NET's new structured error handling. It's not just effective. It's fun. And if you're a beginner or near-beginner, your feeling of accomplishment will be palpable. (Bill Camarda)

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer with nearly 20 years' experience in helping technology companies deploy and market advanced software, computing, and networking products and services. He served for nearly ten years as vice president of a New Jersey–based marketing company, where he supervised a wide range of graphics and web design projects. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780072131772
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies, The
  • Publication date: 1/11/2002
  • Series: Learn to Program Series
  • Pages: 611
  • Product dimensions: 7.42 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 1.56 (d)

Meet the Author

John Smiley, MCP, MCSD, MCT, is president of Smiley and Associates, a computer consulting firm. He is the author of eight books, and a computer science professor at Penn State University in Abington, Holy Family College, and the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 2: What Is a Computer Program?

In this chapter, we follow my computer class as they learn what a computer program is and what it does. Along the way, you learn what happens when you turn your computer on and we demystify the behind-the-scenes workings of the computer. Why learn this, you might ask? Although you don't need an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of your computer to write Windows programs, the more you know, the better the programs you can write.

What Is a Computer?

At the conclusion of our last class, I warned my students that during this class meeting we'd need to discuss some of the nitty-gritty of computer hardware and software before we could get on with the fun part—looking at and learning Visual Basic.

"Can anyone give me a definition of a computer?" I asked my class. For whatever reason, everyone seemed a little reluctant to volunteer, so I gave my definition, as follows:

A computer is a machine, made primarily of metal and plastic. It has few moving parts and is mostly electrical in nature. It accepts data in some form of input with which it then performs calculations and other types of operations on the data with tremendous speed and accuracy. It then generates information in some form of output.

"We'll look at some of the terms I use here in a little more detail shortly," I said. I continued by explaining that a computer performs its calculations and operations through instructions provided by a human being. Collectively, these instructions are called a computer program, and the person who writes the program is called a programmer.

"You'll be doing exactly that," I said, "when you write programs in Visual Basic."


Linda noted I used the word "data" in my definition of a computer. She asked me to clarify exactly what I meant by data. I thought for a moment, and said data is anything the computer uses to produce information. Data, for example, can be numbers, letters, symbols, names, addresses, student grades, pictures, or charts.

"But the computer doesn't understand the language of human beings," I said. "For that reason, data must first be translated into a language the computer does understand. Its native language is sometimes known as machine language and takes the form of ones and zeroes. It's also called binary language or binary code."

It's not only data that must be translated into binary code. Programs submitted to the computer to run must also be translated.

Several students told me they recognized the word "binary." I asked if anyone could tell me exactly what binary meant.

"Two," Dave answered.

"Good," I said. "Binary means two, and both data and programs are represented in the computer by a series of ones and zeroes."

"Why only ones and zeroes?" Ward asked.

"The reason for this is the computer is electrical," I answered. "It's relatively easy for the computer to represent data and programs as a series of on or off switches, where on is a one, and off is a zero."

I said most of my students are overwhelmed at first by the notion that the computer uses ones and zeroes to represent data and programs, but it's absolutely true. Because of the miniaturized state of the electronic components in the computer, the computer can contain millions and millions of these on/off switches.

"Each one of these on/off switches has a special name—a bit," I said.

Nearly everyone told me they had heard the word "bit" somewhere.

"A bit sounds like something small and it is," I said. "A bit is the smallest unit of data in the computer. You can think of a bit as the light switch on your wall. It can either be on or off. When a computer bit is on, it has a value of 1. When a computer bit is off, it has a value of 0." I displayed the following sketch on the classroom projector:

"One bit can represent only two values: 1 or 0. Suppose we add a second bit. With two bits, we can represent four possible values."

  • Both bits can be off.
  • Both bits can be on.
  • The first bit can be on and the second bit can be off.
  • The first bit can be off and the second bit can be on.
I displayed the following sketch on the classroom projector...

"...With 3 bits, we can represent 8 possible values. With 4 bits, 16 values. With 5 bits, 32 values. With 6 bits, 64. With 7 bits, 128 values. And, with 8 bits, 256 values."

I displayed the following sketch of eight light switches on the classroom projector, with some of the switches set to on and some set to off...

"...This bit pattern, as it's called," I said, "is the binary form of the capital letter J."

"You're kidding," Ward said. "So my name could be represented in the computer by a pattern of these light switches—I mean ones and zeroes?"

"Exactly right," I replied. "A unique bit pattern exists for every letter of the alphabet (both uppercase and lowercase), each number and each punctuation key on the computer's keyboard."

I asked the students to take a quick look at their keyboard. The keyboard has 26 letters.

Counting both lowercase and uppercase letters, there are 52. Count the numbers and we're up to 62. Now count the punctuation keys.

"On my keyboard, I count another 32," Rose said.

"That gives us a total of 94," Jack said.

I explained that to represent any one of those 94 characters on the keyboard requires 7 bits, because 7 bits can represent 128 characters. To represent the non-printable characters as well requires 8 bits.

"A collection of 8 bits is called a byte," I said, "and the standardized bit pattern is known as the ASCII code. ASCII stands for the American Standard Code for Information Interchange." "Where can we find the ASCII code?" Barbara asked.

"When we start up Visual Basic, you'll find the ASCII code can easily be found in Visual Basic's online help by searching for the keyword ASCII."

I told the class not to be intimidated by all this talk of bits and bytes because memorizing the ASCII code isn't necessary to be a good programmer. However, knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes can be invaluable.

"A Visual Basic programmer should be aware of binary," I said, "because Visual Basic, like all other programming languages, acts as a translator. The programmer writes in a language—in our case Visual Basic—which is similar to English. Then something known as the Visual Basic compiler converts this English-like writing to binary code which the machine can understand."


"OK," I said. "We've looked at the most basic form of data in the computer. Now let's examine how and where that data is stored in the computer."

I continued by saying that something that always seems to confuse students is the concept of computer memory. I reminded them of my definition of a computer: it accepts data, and performs calculations and other types of operations on that input to generate information.

"These calculations and operations are performed in the computer's memory," I said. "Computer memory is also called RAM, which is an acronym for random access memory. Bits and bytes are recorded electrically in the computer's RAM. The computer uses RAM just like you would use a piece of scratch paper. RAM holds not only data, but every program currently running."

I displayed the following sketch on the classroom projector...

"...Here's a sketch of RAM use in a typical computer," I said.

"Do we need to memorize this?" Rhonda asked.

"Goodness, no!" I exclaimed. "I'm not discussing RAM for that reason. What's important here is for you to understand how the computer uses it—that's what can make you a better programmer." I continued by explaining that RAM temporarily holds programs currently running and any data these programs require.

"How temporary is temporary?" Mary asked.

"A fraction of a second," I said. "The ones and zeroes stored in RAM are there only as long as the computer is on. When you turn your computer off, the contents of RAM, the bits and bytes, are lost."

"If you're using your computer," I said, "and a thunderstorm suddenly knocks your power out, the contents of RAM are lost in an instant. The term volatility is used to describe the temporary and fragile nature of RAM."

"What do KB and MB mean?" asked Rhonda.

"KB is an acronym for kilobyte, which is the term for approximately one thousand bytes. A megabyte—MB is its acronym—is approximately a million bytes," I replied. "We'll look more at these terms when we discuss computer storage."

"Something that confuses beginners," I said, "is the notion of RAM capacity and the speed at which data can be accessed from it. When you buy a computer, it comes with a certain amount or capacity of RAM, which is also rated with a length of time. The capacity tells you the total number of bytes the computer's RAM can hold and the rating indicates the time it takes the computer to get to or access a particular piece of data in RAM."

"I've taken a look inside my computer at home and I know I have 32MB of RAM and it's rated at 60 nanoseconds," Peter said.

"Thank you, Peter," I said. "A nanosecond is one billionth of a second. This means Peter's computer can access a particular piece of data in RAM in 60 billionths of a second."

I continued by saying that in addition to RAM, other devices in the computer also have ratings. For instance, floppy disks and hard disk drives are rated in the millisecond range. Because 1,000,000 nanoseconds are in a millisecond, accessing data from a floppy disk or hard disk drive takes a much longer time than accessing the same data from RAM.

"Relatively speaking then, RAM is very fast," Dave said. "Yes it is," I agreed.

"My computer has 4 gigabytes of RAM," Ward said proudly.

"Actually," I replied, "that'll be the storage capacity of your hard disk drive, which is also measured in bytes. Your hard drive has 4 billion bytes of storage space, as a gigabyte, whose acronym is GB, is approximately 1 billion bytes. I told you these terms could be confusing. Your computer has a certain amount of RAM and a certain amount of storage. We'll look at the concept of storage in a minute or so."

Linda observed that RAM capacity is always less than the capacity of the computer's hard drive. "Excellent observation, Linda," I said. "RAM, as I mentioned, uses electricity to store bits and bytes, and is much more expensive than disk drives, which use magnetism to permanently store bits and bytes. At home, my computer contains 32MB of RAM, while my hard disk drive contains 3.1GB. Therefore, the capacity of my disk drive is about 100 times as large as my RAM."

I displayed the following slide on the classroom projector:

To Summarize then, RAM:

  • Uses electricity to store ones and zeroes.
  • Holds programs and data for execution.
  • Is temporary in nature, sometimes called volatile.
  • Has less capacity than a hard disk drive.
  • Is faster than a hard disk drive.
  • Is more expensive than a hard disk drive....
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments x
Introduction xi
1 Where Do I Begin? 1
Where Do We Begin? 2
Programming the Easy Way 3
Planning a Program Is Like Planning to Build a House 4
We Receive a Call from the China Shop 5
We Meet with Our Client 5
The Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) 12
Phase 1 The Preliminary Investigation 15
Phase 2 Analysis 16
Phase 3 Design 19
Phase 4 Development 41
Phase 5 Implementation 42
Phase 6 Audit and Maintenance 43
Where to from Here? 44
Summary 44
2 What Is a Computer Program? 47
What Is a Computer? 48
Data 48
Memory 51
Computer Storage 54
RAM versus Storage 55
What Makes a Computer Program Run? 56
A Little Computer History 58
DOS 58
Microsoft Windows 65
A More In-depth Look at Windows 71
Virtual Memory 71
Multitasking 72
Running Programs in Windows 74
The Windows Handle 80
Windows Messages 80
The Focus 81
What Is a Computer Program? 82
Summary 83
3 Getting Comfortable with Visual Basic 85
The Visual Basic Environment 86
Preparing the Way for Programming 86
Let's Start Up Visual Basic! 91
The Visual Basic Project 92
The IDE 94
The Modes of Visual Basic 96
The Visual Basic Menu Bar 96
The Visual Basic Toolbar 114
The Visual Basic Toolbox 115
The Properties Window 118
Summary 119
4 Programming Is Easy 121
Less Is Best 122
Visual Basic Properties, Methods, and Events 123
Visual Basic Properties 123
Running the China Shop Project for the First Time 140
Properties of the Form 144
Visual Basic Methods 151
Visual Basic Events 152
Summary 156
5 Building the User Interface 157
Completing the User Interface 158
John Smiley's Ten-Step Guide to Successful Interface Development 158
The Visual Basic Toolbox 159
The China Shop Controls 161
Creation of the China Shop Form 161
Let's Run the China Shop Project! 180
Common Properties of the Controls in the China Shop Project 182
CheckBox Properties 184
Button Control Properties 187
ColorDialog Properties 191
GroupBox Properties 192
PictureBox Control Properties 193
Label Properties 195
ListBox Properties 197
RadioButton Properties 199
Timer Properties 200
Tab Order and the TabIndex Property 201
A Surprise Visit 204
Summary 208
6 A First Look at Coding 209
Events and Event-Driven Programming 210
In the Old Days... 210
The Modern Approach 211
What's an Event? 213
Writing Code 219
Program Comments 228
The Line Continuation Character (_) 230
A Visual Basic Code Overview 233
The Visual Basic Debugger 245
The Debug Menu 251
Summary 260
7 Data 261
Computer Data 262
Variables 262
How Do We Create a Variable? 266
Variable Declaration 266
Do Variables Need to Be Initialized? 274
Visual Basic Data Types 275
Numeric Data Types 275
The String Data Type 280
Other Data Types 281
Property Data Types 282
Constants 285
Operations on Data 287
Arithmetic Operations 287
Comparison Operators 297
Logical Operators 299
Summary 307
8 Selection Structures 309
Falling Rock Behavior 310
How Can We Improve Upon This? 312
If...Then 313
If...Then...Else 318
If...Then...Elself 320
Select...Case 325
The China Shop Project 331
Reviewing the Prototype 349
Summary 350
9 Loops 351
Why Loops? 352
The For...Next Loop 353
Do...Loops 362
Mr. Bullina Sends a Surprise 375
Summary 379
10 String Manipulation 381
What Exactly Is a String? 382
String Concatenation 383
Breaking Strings Apart 389
Summary 415
11 File Operations 417
Disk File Operations 418
Writing Data to a Disk File 418
Reading Data from a Disk File 430
Summary 437
12 Finishing the User Interface 439
Where Are We Now? 440
Drop-Down Menus 440
A First Look at the Main Menu Control 442
Coding the Menu Control 461
More on the MsgBox Function 478
The Return Value of the MsgBox Function 478
The Button Argument of the MsgBox Function 480
Summary 483
13 Arrays 485
Why Arrays? 486
What's an Array? 490
Dynamic Arrays 498
Array Dimensions 504
Modifying the China Shop Project to Include Arrays 512
Summary 526
14 Error Handling 527
Common Beginner Errors 528
Forgetting to Increment a Counter Variable 528
Forgetting to Add to an Accumulator 529
Forgetting to Open a File 530
Opening a File That's Already Open 532
Forgetting to Close a File 533
Reading Beyond the End of the File 534
Writing to a File Opened for Input 536
Your Program Doesn't Find Any Records 537
The File You Are Reading Is Missing or Empty 539
Reading Too Many or Too Few Fields from a Disk File 542
Division by Zero 547
Error Handling 549
Unstructured Error Handling: On Error GoTo 551
Structured Error Handling: Try and Catch 557
Error Handling in the China Shop Project 560
Summary 563
15 Customizing Your Program 565
Writing to the Windows Registry 566
GetSetting and SaveSetting 567
Using RegEdit 574
Reading from the Windows Registry 578
Optimizing Visual Basic Code 585
User-Written Procedures 586
Subprocedures in the China Shop Project 592
Testing Our Program 596
We Meet at the Bullina China Shop 597
Summary 602
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2002

    Get Your Feet Wet Here!

    If you are new to programming, this is good place to start. Mr. Smiley has quite a knack of being able to explain complex concepts in a way that regular people can grasp. Through the book, you get to ¿sit in¿ on a computer class and program a kiosk-style price display project (¿The China Project¿). While the class motif does have disadvantages (most notably extra text and a reduction in the book¿s value as a reference work), it does offer compelling advantages in a introductory level book: 1. There is a plot to keep one interested as one goes through the book 2. The class motif provides a unifying theme and style to the text as a whole. 3. Most importantly, the classroom setting allows Smiley to bring up possible errors that one might make along the way (e.g., typos) in a very natural and friendly way. The classroom setting also allows for Q&A (kind of like a FAQ for each topic). The full title of this book is ¿Learn to Program Using VB.NET¿, with the ¿Learn to Program¿ portion of the title is in smaller print in the upper-right corner, while the VB.NET is in large print in the center. This is rather unfortunate because it miscommunicates the purpose of the book. The book is very much for beginners; it is not for those who want to learn the intricacies of the .NET framework. It would have been much better if the ¿Learn to Program¿ were in larger print while the ¿VB.NET¿ wasn¿t quite so prominent. That, it itself, may very well be the source of many misunderstandings regarding this book. That, be as it may, the book¿s strengths, as I see them, are: 1. It is one of the very few books that I have seen that keeps alive the original spirit of Visual Basic as a programming language for hobbyists (as opposed to the ¿VB is a powerful language that won¿t make C programmers bust out laughing at you¿ marketing that Microsoft uses for the new version). 2. Smiley emphasizes important concepts that are not specific to a specific programming language. These concepts include software lifecycle as well as how to think through how to construct algorithms (i.e., how to construct solutions for the task at hand). Also, he explains how computer programs actually work. 3. Smiley¿s approach to VB¿s debugging tools is rather novel. Instead of being merely tools to find out what went wrong with your code, the debugging tools become a microscope to your code to help it become alive and understandable. 4. An entire chapter is devoted to beginner¿s mistakes. Beware, though, that if you are not at the beginner level, this book is not for you. Some of the difficulties that an experienced programmer will encounter include: 1. No mention is made of more advanced concepts, such as connecting to databases or object-based programming. They are addressed in other books in the series. 2. If you know basic programming concepts, you will find yourself wanting to get to the code. 3. Smiley teaches/emphasizes classic VB-style syntax whenever possible. While this is certainly valid, and a great way to teach the language to beginners (remember that Basic was a beginner¿s language while C was not), it is not so great if you want to get the most out of the new VB. As I mentioned before, this book is a great place to start if you are new to programming. But is hardly the place to finish. Rather, use this book to get your feet wet, and then you can move on to other books to further explore all the possibilities of the VB.NET.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2002

    A Good Beginner's VB.Net Resource

    Mr. Smiley's book is a good way for those beginning to program to jump into Microsoft's lastest version of Visual Basic.Net. Excellent for beginners, this work will help you learn the basics of VB.Net, as well as event-driven Windows programming in general. Chapters of the book cover areas such as user interface design, looping, file operations, data types, error handling, etc. All of the basics are covered here in a good fashion, in the form of a classroom setting. For those wishing to both learn to program as well as to leap into VB.Net, this book is a fine starting point.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2002

    Another Winner from an Enthusiastic Instructor

    'Learn to Program with Visual Basic.Net,' by John Smiley, invites you into a college-level introductory programming course, complete with screen shots, classroom discussion, questions and lots of supportive coaching from the instructor. We follow author Smiley in his real-life role as college computer-programming instructor and his class of enthusiastic students while they take on a retail kiosk programming project. Written in a friendly, enthusiastic style, 'Learn to Program with Visual Basic.Net' lives up to its title, one does indeed learn computer programming from the ground up while delving into the fundamentals of Visual Basic.Net. Novices are brought up to speed by a quick chapter on the basics of what a computer program is and how Visual Basic interacts with Windows. The remaining chapters tie back to the retail-kiosk programming project by adding more sophisticated coding methods like menus, file input/output, array manipulation, error handling, and using the Windows Registry. The retail-kiosk project is a vehicle for learning the fundamentals of Visual Basic programming applicable to any type of professional application. This highly creative book will be of value both to those just starting out, as well as to those with some experience but with a desire to explore a new programming language. Internet/web programming is not covered in this volume, but read this book first to build a foundation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2002

    Start programming here!

    Professer Smiley brings the virtual classroom right back to VB.Net with out skipping a beat! From the moment I opened Learn to Program with Visual Basic.Net I felt as if I had stepped into the classroom, sat down at the desk, and launched into a new beginning toward my programming goals. Load up the development environment and start coding (chapter 4). But first, as a beginning programmer you will need to know some fundemental ideas about computers, programs and how they relate to each other, the user, and you the programmer. You will need to understand the Vb.Net integrated development environment(not quite the same as Vb6!)and how to manuver through it. All disussed in the first three chapters, and referred to during the course of the book. John opens chapter four with 'programming is easy'. And so it is from that point forward. With the system development life cycle under your belt, developing your programming skills is easy! From properties, methods and events, to controls, arrays and string manipulation; data structures and variables; you'll find yourself fully immersed in this relaxed, un-pressured learning environment. You will find comprehensive discussions regarding the harder to understand material, along with demonstrations to bring home the theory and practical sides of what is being presented. In the end you will have constructed a project which has use, and will continue to be an educational tool when Professer Smiley comes out with his next entry to the LTP series. ( I hope it's soon!) The only thing left to say is: by this book and learn to program!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2002

    An excellent way to learn the basics of VisualBasic

    I found myself engaged as an eager long distance member of Professor Smiley's virtual Introduction to VisualBasic Programming class. In his wise, experienced prfessorial manner, John Smiley teaches through discussion, examples, and problem solving. Not only are the basics of programming clearly explained, but the step by step process of planning and writing a program for a real world application makes learning Visual Basic fun! The book has something to offer for both novice and experienced programmers. It would also be an extrodinary selection if you just want to understand VisualBasic and have no intention of ever doing any serious programming. This book explained in 15 chapters more than other VisualBasic texts were able to do in twice that! John Smiley's instructions are clear and easy to follow as one follows along at his/her own computer. This is a helpful, accessible, and enjoyable book for beginners.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2002

    A Simple overview of Visual Basic.Net

    This book illustrates the simple understanding of VB.Net. It seems that very little has changed from its predecessor VB6. Minor changes were made to the names of the toolbox objects, but the principle is the same. Anyone who understands VB6 and has written applications in VB6, would be able to handle VB.Net. Professor Smiley has done a fine job, and I would recommend this book as a very good overview of VB.Net.

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