Gas station without pumps

2016 January 10

Installing a dishwasher

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:23
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A lot of my time this weekend was spent installing a dishwasher—much more than I had planned on.

I bought a Bosch Ascenta 2434 Tall Tub BuiltIn Dishwasher White, model SHE3AR72UC, from Best Buy. I chose Best Buy out of several similarly priced companies, because they could schedule delivery on Saturday, because they would haul away the old dishwasher, and because their web site reminded me to buy a power cord and water hose kit with the dishwasher. (If you’ve never installed a dishwasher, you should know that they don’t come fully equipped—most appliances sold in the US don’t—and the necessary accessories kit for doing the installation varies a lot in price from retailer to retailer.)

On Friday night I pulled out the old dishwasher (an older Bosch model that was no longer working well and whose front panel was rusting out), and salvaged the power cord, water hose, and connections between the drain hose and the sink drain. That was a pretty quick task, as there were only a few screws to remove. I’d put that dishwasher in, so I knew how to take it out. About the same amount of time was spent moving furniture and boxes around to make a clear path from the front door to the kitchen, wide enough for two guys carrying a dishwasher.

The Best Buy bots had sent us two phone calls and an e-mail message on Friday, giving us the two-hour window that the delivery should occur in on Saturday.  Surprise, surprise! They came within their two-hour window (albeit near the end of the window).  I can’t remember the last time that a scheduled delivery, plumber, or appliance repair appointment was on time.

The dishwasher and installation kit were delivered in good shape, and I started installation, trying to get everything done before it got dark (we’re having the lighting in our kitchen replaced after about 29 years of not being happy with it, and right now all the old lighting has been removed, but the new lighting is not installed yet).

There was no problem with the electrical connection—I used the same plug and cord that I had used before, since they were the right length and still in good shape.  The installation kit I bought included the necessary strain relief (which the old dishwasher had not had!).

For the water line, the 6′ hose provided was not long enough (a problem I had expected), so I did what I had done last time, and coupled it to a 4′ hose (I reused the old 4′ hose, though I probably should have replaced it). Other than providing only a 6′ hose (when I needed a 10′ one—they may have a different kit that provides a 10′ one), the kit had all the needed parts, including the right-angle connector needed to hook up the hose to the dishwasher.  (The connection kit should really be a standard part of the dishwasher purchase, not an optional add-on.)

Leveling the dishwasher was tricky, because the floor under the dishwasher is not level—there is ceramic tile under the front legs, but only plywood subfloor under the back leg. But the back leg can only be adjusted when the dishwasher is not under the counter.  I had to go up to the attic to find some old off-cuts from the kitchen tiles, to prop up the front the right amount while adjusting  the back.  It turned out the new dishwasher is very slightly taller than the old one, so I had to adjust the front legs to minimum height and tilt the dishwasher to get it under the front lip of the counter.  Once the back foot was past the edge of the tile the dishwasher went in well enough, though the unattached insulation on the top and sides kept wanting to scrunch up.

The drain line, however, presented a challenge.  Unlike the old hose, which ended with a barbed connector, this one ended with a female rubber connector, designed for a 1/2″ or 3/4″ barbed connector.  The branched drain connector under the sink has a barbed connector, so it should have been a simple matter of slipping the end of the drain hose over the barbed connector and tightening the clamp.

No such luck! The problem is that there are two standard sizes for those barbs for dishwasher connections: 5/8″ and 7/8″ and the lazy engineers at Bosch had not bothered to look up the US standards or ask a US plumber for help.  They saw that 1/2″ and 3/4″ barbs were common in the US, and assumed that the standard water line sizes would be used for the dishwasher connection. And no one at Bosch has caught and corrected this error, though they’ve been selling the dishwasher for over a year. I get really annoyed by incompetents, and my opinion of Bosch engineering has gone from moderately high, to abysmal. That’s the sort of mistake I expect from lazy students, not from good students and certainly not from professional engineers.

The old design used a simple rubber connector to join the barbs of the drain hose to the barbs of the drain, and hardware stores stock reducing rubber connectors to join any size from 1/2″ to 7/8″ for about $4.  But the new design has the rubber connector glued onto the dishwasher hose, and it does not include any allowance for 7/8″ barbs!

So this morning I went out to the hardware store, carrying the entire under-sink drain assembly with me, to find a workaround.  First I looked for a branch with 1/2″ or 3/4″ barbs, since the dishwasher had been designed for that. I figured I just had a weird old part with 7/8″ barbs.  That’s when I found out that 7/8″ and 5/8″ were the standards, and that the hardware store only had 7/8″, like the existing one.  (I got a new one anyway, since it had a direct fitting for the bottom of the sink strainer rather than a slip joint like the one I’d been using, which removed one slip joint from the under-sink plumbing—a slip joint that failed a few times a year.)

I also looked for a 3/4″ barb-barb coupler so that I could connect the drain hose to the coupler, producing a 3/4″ barbed end that I could then connect to the 7/8″ drain with the old rubber coupling.  But they seemed to be out of barb-barb couplers, so I went to another hardware store, where I got the 3/4″ coupler, plus some other under-sink plumbing parts (like a branch drain with a 5/8″ dishwasher barb), in case my first fix didn’t work and I had to try something else.

It took me a while to reassemble all the under-sink plumbing, because I had to do everything twice.  The first time I hooked up the water hose, for example, I had managed to tangle it with the sink sprayer hose, so that the sink sprayer could no longer be pulled all the way out.  Replacing the drain connection from the sink to the steel drain pipe in the concrete wall is always a problem, because they are a long way apart and don’t line up well—there is always a bit of stress on the trap, and getting everything lined up well enough to tighten all the slip joints is tricky.  If I do them in the wrong order, there is too much of an angle at the remaining joints and the threads won’t line up well enough to catch.

I did eventually get all the parts back together and tightened up enough so that there are no leaks.  I’m running the dishwasher now to make sure that it doesn’t shake anything else loose.  The dishwasher has drained a few times now with no detectable leaks, so I think we’ll be able to put all the under-cabinet stuff back tomorrow morning.

The new dishwasher is somewhat louder than the old one, and this one has a drying cycle, which increases its energy use quite a bit.  The old one never did get dishes dry, unless we popped it open as soon as the cycle finished and shook the water off any plastic dishes, so it may be that the new one will be better, despite the higher energy use.

I’ve got no future as plumber—it took me several hours to install the dishwasher, and the installation fee charged by the big companies is only $160.  But at least this way I know where everything is and how it goes together, and I can fix it if it fails, without having to wait days for a plumber to have time.


2012 April 3

Asymptote drawing program—hard to install

Filed under: Software — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 13:43
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My son has been using Asymptote, a drawing program for geometric drawings, with the Art of Problem-Solving classes that he has been taking.  He’s been running it on their website through the TeXer interface with [asy] tags, which is a little awkward, as error messages are not returned—you just get success or failure.  Asymptote has a lot of powerful features and seems pretty easy to use for a compiled language, and I thought it might be worth my trouble to learn for those diagrams that are not the sorts of graphing that gnuplot is good for.

We wanted to install it on our Macs, but like with our troubles with gnuplot, the developers of Asymptote have made it damn near impossible to install on Macs. We did find something that looked promising: precompiled binaries for the Mac: HMUG: /pub/MacOS_X/X/Applications/Publishing/asymptote.

Unfortunately, these binaries are not complete.  In a separate file, they tell you about all the libraries you need to install first:

ImageMagick 6.7.3-3
gv 3.7.2
gsl 1.15
MacTeX 2010
gc 7.1
readline 6.2

That is not a trivial set of dependencies!

The default sourceforge download is no better. It does not have sources either, and has (apparently) the same dynamic library dependencies.  You have to go all way to getting a branch from the SVN repository if you want to compile it yourself, which is more trouble than Asymptote was worth.

Are proper Mac OS X installers so difficult to build that the open-source projects never build them?

2012 January 2

Installing gnuplot—a nightmare

Filed under: Software — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:19
Tags: , , , , , , ,

My son and I use gnuplotfor all our graph plotting, because it is free, it has good curve-fitting tools, it can produce graphs in many standard graphical formats (both vector and raster formats), and it has good scripting capabilities.

Example of a simple gnuplot graph, click for full-size image.

I sure wish that it came already installed on Macintosh computers, though, as it is huge pain to install.  We had to install it for my son to do his latest physics lab writeup, as the old version we had on the household computer was from the old G5 iMac, and could not run under Lion, which no longer supports emulation of the PowerPC processors.

Probably the easiest way to install gnuplot is using MacPorts, so first we had to install MacPorts.  Downloading it went fine, but it wouldn’t install, because the Xcode that came with the Mac was not suitably configured.  So we had to install a new Xcode, which meant setting up an AppStore  account.  The Xcode download is almost 2 Gbytes and took an hour.  What the h*** is in Xcode that it is so bloated?  So far as I can see, Xcode contains a low-quality editor (about as powerful as Textedit), some compilers, and a build system that is about as featureful as make. The download is about 100× bigger than is reasonable—is it full of porn videos or what?

After the hour-long download of Xcode, MacPorts installed ok, but to run it we had to add /opt/local/bin and /opt/local/sbin to the path in the .cshrc file (and /opt/local/man to the MANPATH), since MacPorts puts its programs in a totally separate place form where everything else gets installed.

Because my son wanted to use the latest features of gnuplot (the pdfcairo output option), we started by using

sudo port install cairo
sudo port install pango

This triggered a huge pile of downloads and installations, as MacPorts built an entire ecosystem duplicating most of the compilation and building capabilities of Xcode (so why does it need Xcode to get started). After about an hour of downloads and building, we were finally ready to install gnuplot.

Due to lack of documentation for Mac installation on the gnuplot site, we downloaded and installed gd-libgd, which probably was not necessary, because

sudo port install gnuplot

installed a different version of gd anyway.  The total time to do the installation was over 2 hours (mostly due to the massive downloads).  It also took up a huge amount of disk space (1.9Gbytes for Xcode, 769Mbytes in /opt).  All that for a tiny program that is only about 2Mbytes. I just wanted one small graphing program, not two huge ecosystems for developing code!

There are two groups of people who could fix this problem:

  1. Apple could include gnuplot in their standard Unix utilities.  This would be the simplest and best solution.
  2. The gnuplot developers could release Macintosh binaries (like they already do for Windows) that install like other Macintosh programs.

I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for either of these things to happen.  Apple has no interest whatsoever in the scientific market (though I see more and more MacBooks at conferences) and the gnuplot developers see nothing wrong in taking 2 hours and 2.7Gbytes to install a 2Mbyte program—they do it all the time.

I used to recommend gnuplot to my students all the time, but now that most of them have Macs, I can’t honestly recommend it anymore.  No one should have to go through that much hassle to install a simple program.

[Added 2013 March 15: Read through all the comments.  Gnuplot installation on Macs has gotten somewhat easier since I wrote this post, and people have written about better approaches in the comments.  Installation is still not as easy as it should be, but it is not quite the nightmare it was.]

[Update 2016 Nov 20: I installed gnuplot on a MacBook Air by

  • Installing Xquartz from
  • Installing brew from The command given on their homepage has to be run from bash, not tcsh.
  • brew install gnuplot --with-cairo --with-x11 --with-qt5

Note that this set of commands provides pdf  output with the “pdfcairo” terminal, but not the “pdf” terminal.  The default is the qt5 terminal, though I think I prefer the classic x11 terminal, because of my familiarity with it.  (Switching with “set term x11” is easy enough.)


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