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Always be learning - how a leaky pipe made me appreciate Open Source

by talexb (Canon)
on Feb 07, 2006 at 10:38 UTC ( #528464=perlmeditation: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

I had a leaky pipe two weeks ago. It started leaking in the morning, after my shower and while I was reading the morning paper. After getting one Really Enormous Quote from a plumber and then doing some soul searching, I decided to do the repairs myself.

Since I'm a big fan of Mike Holmes, and since Mike said on one of his shows that PEX tubing was the way all new plumbing was going, I thought I'd give that a shot. The good news is that my plumbing is now in tip-top shape, at the cost of being partially without water for a week, and of about 50 hours of my time, which includes about ten visits to my local Home Depot for parts and advice.

Doing a repair yourself and making the pilgrimmage to Home Depot is similar to the mindset required to making the choice to run Linux. It's not for the faint of heart, or for those who just have no idea about what they're doing. Surely as (say) 10% of Linux distro CDs get run once or even never, I would bet that 10% of whatever Home Depot sells ends up stashed in the garage or buried under junk in the basement, the owner too embarrassed to admit they couldn't figure it out.

Jumping to a new technology can be scary, but it can also be a good thing -- in my case, I've taken apart lots of galvanized steel pipe, but never built it. It takes a certain amount of knowledge to put it together, but it also clogs with rust, eventually leaks, and it's ugly. Copper is way better -- it also takes some skill to put it together, but the bar is lower than galvanized steel, it doesn't leak, and it's cleaner looking. Copper tubing is heavy, though, and you have to mount it properly; you can also get water hammer under some circumstances. The PEX tubing I used was really easy to put together, once you've mastered the rather expensive crimping tool and the Go/No-Go template. The best part about it is that you're not dealing with the really hot flames and molten solder of copper plumbing -- just plug the parts in, crimp the ring, and you have a join.

Like Open Source, you sometimes have to be willing to take the leap into the unknown and ask questions, make mistakes, and experience stress. In my case, I crimped PEX tubing to the copper riser going to the toilet before soldering any parts onto the copper. The problem was that the heat from the soldering might damage the crimp and/or the tubing; there was also the challenge that I had only 1" (2.5cm) of copper pipe showing from the floor, and I wasn't sure my soldering skills were up to this tight job.

But, like Open Source, I bought the wrong parts, took them home, looked at them, looked at my partially completed installation and figured out I had some wrong parts. I then went back (again and again) to the store for the right parts, talked to some knowledgeable people (and some dolts), even, amazingly enough, ran into a fellow Perl Monger in the plumbing department at 10pm on a Saturday night, and in the end finished with a solution that works and looks sharp.

This isn't a Meditation to recommend what kind of pipe you use for your plumbing, or even what mega-store you get your hardware from; it's just a reminder that sometimes Open Source is tough, but in the end, with the support of the community, it gets the job done and done well.

Alex / talexb / Toronto

"Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

Updated: Fixed some typos in the first paragraph.

Comment on Always be learning - how a leaky pipe made me appreciate Open Source
Re: Always be learning - how a leaky pipe made me appreciate Open Source
by zentara (Archbishop) on Feb 07, 2006 at 13:01 UTC
    I could relate to your analogy, I've replaced an entire house's plumbing through Home Depot. It's interesting to just wander through the aisles and look at "what's available to do a certain job".... there is always something new.....just like CPAN. (I went with copper :-) ).

    I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth. flash japh
        It's interesting to just wander through the aisles and look at "what's available to do a certain job"

      And that's what trolling through the man page and/or documentation is like .. instead of asking 'How can I do X?', why not ask 'What functions and features are available?' and go with that.

      Alex / talexb / Toronto

      "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

        To extend the analogy, perlmonks is like the staff at Home Depot. You can read the little "how-to" pamphlet, or the instruction manual for the cool new whiz-bang tool ( the man pages and perldocs), but sometimes you need a real person showing you how it is done, or pointing you to which of the various tools is best for your purpose. They know because they have seen it before, so you get the benefit of their experience.

        By the way, the secret to foolproof copper soldering, is always sand the copper surfaces, before applying the acid flux. Now most manuals will say "make sure the copper is clean", but it takes an experienced plumber to say sand them. Just like here on perlmonks, there are certains usages that only come from the accumulated experience of the monks, which isn't in the docs.


        I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth. flash japh
Re: Always be learning - how a leaky pipe made me appreciate Open Source
by shotgunefx (Parson) on Feb 07, 2006 at 13:05 UTC
    I know how you feel after trying on and off all last week getting SDL, Perl_SDL and some other libraries up to the most current snapshots on my Debian box.

    Lot's of confusion and groping but finally get it to work. Then I bump up my nvidia drivers to the latest and now it needs to be reinstalled after every reboot.

    After much head scratching, log searching, it appears the nvidia init.d script unlinks one of the modules as it shuts down. The frustrating part was it's not logged anywhere. Thank goodness for the "immutable" flag.

    Once everything works, it works great until you need to change something that's near the bleeding edge. Then shudder.

    Funny thing though, I actually worked in plumbing supply in the early 90s. I still don't trust plastic pipe for anything but drainage. The first generation of plastic pipe (Polybutylene) was a disaster. Had the nasty habit of bursting quite often and usually when you weren't home. It lead to a bunch of class action lawsuits against Shell Chemical and to it being discontinued after 1996.

    Not sure how that fits into the analogy :)


    -Lee

    perl digital dash (in progress)
        Funny thing though, I actually worked in plumbing supply in the early 90s. I still don't trust plastic pipe for anything but drainage. The first generation of plastic pipe (Polybutylene) was a disaster. Had the nasty habit of bursting quite often and usually when you weren't home. It lead to a bunch of class action lawsuits against Shell Chemical and to it being discontinued after 1996.

      I followed the 'crimp then test' procedure without fail for all of my joins; only twice did I get bad crimps, and both those times I knew they were bad, because I couldn't finish the crimp, and had to reach for the hacksaw. Now I know what order to do the crimps in, it's obvious -- just like copper plumbing, build as much as possible away from site, and just like Perl, build and test 100% of your work.

      This pipe is rated to 180 or 200psi, and house water pressure standard I'm told is 50psi, so assuming my crimping technique is OK, I feel pretty good about how this installation is going to hold up.

      Alex / talexb / Toronto

      "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

        I'd imagine after the Shell debacle, that any plastic pipe would be getting a whole lot more scrutiny both internally and externally.

        I think the problem with the first wave was the metal sleeves and that the plastic weakened when exposed to some minerals commonly found in water.

        It was never available where I live (MA), the codes here are some of the toughest in the country, so no first hand experience. The only question I'd have with the newer generation stuff is how it does in the cold. Winters here can get ridiculous. I've snapped off vehicle armrests by putting my arm on them in a cold snap and ripped off more plastic car door handles than I can remember during cold snaps.

        -Lee

        perl digital dash (in progress)
Re: Always be learning - how a leaky pipe made me appreciate Open Source
by zshzn (Hermit) on Feb 08, 2006 at 00:21 UTC
    ...ran into a fellow Perl Monger in the plumbing department at 10pm on a Saturday night...
    How does one bring about the conversation with a random civilian to the topic of Perl? Do you happen to wear a sign on your back to clearly state your Perl essense? Or do you introduce yourself as such? "Hi, my name is Alex, and I'm a Perl Monger."

      It was one of those random moments .. as I stood there waiting to talk with the orange-aproned Plumbing Guy at the 24 hour Home Depot at Victoria Park and Ellesmere, up walked John MacDonald (co-author of Mastering Algorithims in Perl), whom I'd just seen the previous Thursday night at Steve MacNabb's Blinkenlites presentation at the Toronto Perl Mongers monthly meeting. He'd finished doing his plumbing but the snaky bits of pipe going from the wall to the sink were old and not watertight, so he had to get replacements. The water had been off all day and his family was getting impatient. I knew all about that.

      Fortunately I wasn't too confused or out of context to be able to say hello, rather then sit there like a lump and say, "Hmm, where do I know that guy from?" Then I saw John again the following Wednesday at the Hamilton Linux Users Group meeting which he wrote up for Groklaw (see .sig). A terrific meeting with a panel consisting of Peter Salus (Unix historian), Robert Young (formerly of Red Hat, now owner of the Hamilton Tiger Cats) and Ren Bucholz of the EFF.

      Alex / talexb / Toronto

      "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

      Update EdwardG has pointed out that I've mis-spelled 'author', so I've corrected it. I thought this was one of those UK spellings we still use in Canada, but I guess I'm mistaken.

        Sounds like so much fun you're having up there. I'll have to join Toronto Perl Mongers when I am a bit more local and have better means of transportation. Currently I'm living on the other side of London, but next fall I will (probably) be attending university either in Waterloo or Toronto and might at least have a car then.
Re: Always be learning - how a leaky pipe made me appreciate Open Source
by wolfger (Deacon) on Feb 09, 2006 at 18:21 UTC

    Wow. Nice story. Makes me wonder why it is that I tinker so much with my computer (Gentoo Linux) and programming, but I hate do-it-yerself in other aspects of my life...

      It's a love/hate thing. I hate plumbing when I do it badly and it leaks. But I love plumbing when I've actually put in the hours and got it to work. Same thing with computers .. sometimes I shout, "I Hate Computers!" when they're not doing what I want, but most of the time they purr along nicely, and I've got them to do some pretty clever things over the years.

      Plumbing is nice because I get to enjoy it every day, but I treat computers a bit like fish treat water -- I'm not always aware that it's even there.

      Alex / talexb / Toronto

      "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

Re: Always be learning - how a leaky pipe made me appreciate Open Source
by punkish (Priest) on Feb 10, 2006 at 19:15 UTC

    You can do it. We can help.

    --

    when small people start casting long shadows, it is time to go to bed
Re: Always be learning - how a leaky pipe made me appreciate Open Source
by ChOas (Curate) on Feb 10, 2006 at 22:41 UTC
    Recommended piece of reading: Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.

    GreetZ!,
      ChOas

    print "profeth still\n" if /bird|devil/;

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