Code I Found: A Warning about Object Comparisons

Last time I posted a "Code I Found" entry some people got upset... well I'm doing it again, but I'm pairing it with an actual warning about object value comparisons in strongly typed languages. This example shows both a valid problem and some dumb coding that complicates it.

The Code

This is the code I found, written it C# (variable names have been changed to protect the innocent). The intention of this code is to get a value from a drop down and compare it to the original value. If the new value is valid and is different, perform some actions to handle that change.

object newValue = Convert.ToInt32(dropdownOptions.SelectedValue);

if (((int)newValue >
0) && (MyObject.Value != newValue))
    MyObject.Value = newValue.ToString();

When I glanced at this code the first time, I did't think much of it, because the use of (int) to cast newValue over and over again didn't really stand out. I did notice that the newValue was saved as an object, but I wasn't too concerned. It wasn't until I ran the code that things went a little weird.

The Problem

No matter what value I chose in the drop down (even the original value) this if block executed. I checked my Watch list while running and saw that (MyObject.Value != newValue) always evaluated to true, no matter what value I picked in the drop down. Looking closer, the watch list told me that both MyObject.Value and newValue may be the same value (say 5) and still (MyObject.Value != newValue) was true.

Not knowing what was going on, but finding It wasn't until I noticed the object casting that I started to get suspicious.object newValue = Convert.ToInt32(dropdownOptions.SelectedValue); to be a really odd statement, I went ahead and switched it to an int, and that when things started to unravel.

Once newValue was an int, the if statement complained that it couldn't compare an object with an int: MyObject.Value was an object, and it wasn't an int. What this means is that the != statement was always going to be true, because an object cannot equal an int, even if they have the same value, because they are not the same type.

The Solution

I corrected the code as follows:

int newValue = Convert.ToInt32(dropdownOptions.SelectedValue);

if ((newValue >
0) && (Convert.ToInt32(MyObject.Value) != newValue))
    MyObject.Value = newValue.ToString();

This not only fixes the logic problem, but actually simplifies the code.



Jon Hartmann, July 2011

I'm Jon Hartmann and I'm a Javascript fanatic, UX/UI evangelist and former ColdFusion master. I blog about mysterious error messages, user interface design questions, and all things baffling and irksome about programming for the web.

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