The Loader in Search of Assemblies in VB.NET

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The Loader in Search of Assemblies
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When you define an AssemblyRef in the metadata, you expect the loader to find exactly this assembly and load it into the application domain. Let s have a look at the process of finding an external assembly and binding it to the referencing application. Given an AssemblyRef, the process of binding to that assembly is influenced by these factors: The application base (AppBase), which is a URL to the referencing application location (that is, to the directory in which your application is located). For executables, this is the directory containing the EXE file. For Web applications, the AppBase is the root directory of the application as defined by the Web server. Version policies specified by the application, by the publisher of the shared assembly being referenced, or by the administrator.
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CHAPTER 6 MODULES AND ASSEMBLIES
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Any additional search path information given in the application configuration file. Any code base (CodeBase) locations provided in the configuration files by the application, the publisher, or the administrator. The CodeBase is a URL to the location of the referenced external assembly. There may be as many code bases as there are referenced assemblies. Whether the reference is to a shared assembly with a strong name or to a private assembly. Strong-named assemblies are first sought in the GAC. As illustrated in Figure 6-2, the loader performs the following steps to locate a referenced assembly: 1. Initiate the binding. Basically, this means taking the relevant AssemblyRef record from the metadata and seeing what it holds its external assembly name, whether it is strong named, whether culture is specified, and so on. 2. Apply the version policies, which are statements made by the application, by the publisher of the shared assembly being referenced, or by the administrator. These statements are contained in XML configuration files and simply redirect references to a particular version (or set of versions) of an assembly to a different version. 3. The .NET Framework retrieves its configuration from a set of configuration files. Each file represents settings that have different scopes. For example, the configuration file supplied with the installation of the common language runtime has settings that can affect all applications that use that version of the CLR. The configuration file supplied with an application (application configuration file) has settings that affect only that one application; this configuration file resides in the application directory. A publisher policy file is supplied by the publisher of a shared assembly, and it contains information about the assembly compatibility and redirects an assembly reference to a new version of the shared component. A publisher policy file is usually issued when the shared component is updated by its publisher. The publisher policy settings take precedence over the settings of the application configuration file. The administrator policy file, Machine.config, resides in the Configuration subdirectory of the CLR installation directory. This file contains settings defined by the administrator for this machine and takes precedence over any other configuration file. Overrides specified in the Machine.config file affect all applications running on this machine and cannot be in turn overridden. 4. If the referenced assembly is strong named (in other words, the AssemblyRef contains non-null public key or public key token), then look up the assembly in the GAC. Otherwise, since weak-named assemblies cannot be installed in GAC, this step is skipped. If the assembly is found, which is the most common case, the search process is completed. 5. Check the CodeBase. Now that the common language runtime knows which version of the assembly it is looking for, it begins the process of locating it. If the CodeBase has been supplied (in the same XML configuration file), it points the CLR directly at the executable to load; otherwise, the runtime needs to look in the AppBase (see the next step). If the executable specified by the CodeBase matches the assembly reference, the process of finding the assembly is complete, and the external assembly can be loaded. In fact, even if the executable specified by the CodeBase does not match the reference, the CLR stops searching. In this case, of course, the search is considered a failure, and no assembly load follows.
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