Monthly Archives: August 2015

KMart Virtual Reality Goggles

KMart $15 Virtual Reality Goggles Review

If you’ve been following the state of virtual reality technology of late, you’ve likely heard of or even used Google Cardboard. Google Cardboard was a precut cardboard fold up VR headset that cost less than $30 and used your mobile phone. Since that came out different companies have produced fully manufactured plastic units similar.

In their most recent catalogue KMart Australia started selling $15 Virtual Reality Goggles using the same design and technology as Google Cardboard. This kit is made of injection molded plastic with comfort foam and adjustable fabric straps to hold it on your head.

KMart Virtual Reality Goggles
KMart Virtual Reality Goggles

The lenses are larger than those in many similar Google Cardboard based headset, which leads to a larger, better field of view. The headset is quite comfortable and lightweight, even with my phone, an Apple iPhone 6, inside.

KMart Virtual Reality Goggles and the box the come in
KMart Virtual Reality Goggles and the box the come in

The virtual reality effect is quite impressive. A rollercoaster app makes you feel like you’re really moving around. Full 180 degree 3D dome videos look impressive. It is quite low resolution and dotty however as the mobile phone’s screen is being spread across your full field of vision.

Looking into the goggles
Looking into the goggles

The unit has a bottom magnet slider which can be used to control some apps on some phones. I’ve not found it to work with my iPhone though.

The manual contains links to some apps that can be used, including a Roller Coaster VR app for iOS.

A Note for Android Users

Commenter Darren Ferguson(see comments below), noted that the magnet on the bottom is should be on the side. The magnet works with the Apple iPhone correct(although intermittently). However on many Android phones including the Nexus5 it magnet will turn the phone off. Thanks for the info Darren!

Conclusion

For $15 I’m really impressed with the quality and strongly recommend it. I’ve only tested with an Apple iPhone 6, but Google Cardboard was originally designed for Android phones so should work fine with those too. This unit is a great chance to play with VR at a low cost.

You can find the KMart Virtual Reality Goggles on their website here or visit your local KMart where they’re strangely stored behind a glass cabinet in the Audio Visual section.

I’ve also published a list of some suggested iPhone Virtual Reality apps to try here.

Comparison of my cardboard VR kit to the KMart Virtual Reality Goggles
Comparison of my cardboard VR kit to the KMart Virtual Reality Goggles
Kitefest Sign

Redcliffe Festival KiteFest – It’d be Good Value if it Were Free

My wife, baby daughter and I visited the Redcliffe Festival KiteFest 2015 this morning. We can see it from our home at Woody Point and we’ve thought about visiting for the last two years but never got around to it.

Kitefest Sign

This time we decided we’d go check it out with our 2 month old daughter. Knowing that the parking would be a problem we decided to walk from home. We got a fantastic view of the aerobatics display by a Yak-52 from the Woody Point waterfront.

Aerobatics Display as Seen From Woody Point
Aerobatics Display as Seen From Woody Point

There was a great view of the kites that were flying as we walked along Bell’s Beach.

As we walked past the white fabric wall towards the entrance I said something that got this shocked response from my wife Jacqui:

“You mean you have to pay?”

I responded in the affirmative. “Be prepared to be shocked by the price” I told her. I wasn’t sure what the exact cost was as I hadn’t checked in advance.

As it turned out it was $8 per adult, $5 for children or $20 for a family pass. A family pass covers 2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children. Bad luck if you’ve got 2 adults and 3 kids. You’ll have to pay $25. Just to get in.

So what did you get for your money?

The main entertainment stage
The main entertainment stage

Well you got to walk around a smaller version of your local Sunday markets. There were a number of activities available for kids. For instance:

  • Kite Making Workshops – Cost $5
  • Animal Farm – Cost $5
  • Rides – $5 each or $25 for a day pass
Kite Flying Demonstrations
Kite Flying Demonstrations

There’s the main arena for kite flying displays and there was a number of water skiing displays during the day off the coast. In addition there was a live music stage in the main food area. Speaking of food, about 1/3 of the stalls were food trucks with a nice selection of food, but fairly expensive. We were there before the big crowds and yet the lines were still quite long. We ended up just getting a sausage sizzle.

The eating area
The eating area

We wandered around for about an hour and by that stage we were ready to go home. Sure there were a few shows coming up but they were age ages away and we didn’t want to queue for ages for food and drinks. Much cheaper to get some chips at the local fish and chip shop(for that matter the only food truck selling chips had run out – at 11:30am on Saturday). Plus you wouldn’t have to fight to find a place to sit amongst the too few tables and chairs.

One of the streets of markets
One of the streets of markets

The Bottom Line

The Redcliffe Festival KiteFest is a nice event. There’s some interesting kites displays and other shows. By and large though it’s a smallish Sunday Market. That’s fine it’d be a great thing to visit, if it were priced appropriately. $8 per person is just way too much. A family of 4 could easily end up spending $100 just to get in and have lunch. In our case, the $16 we spent to get in was money we didn’t spend at the food stalls inside.

Some more of the kite demonstrations
Some more of the kite demonstrations

The view of the kites and flying displays is better from Bells Beach or even the Woody Point Waterfront. If you’re just interested in the aerobatics, go to Woody Point Jetty.

An appropriate price would be $2 per person like the much better value Eat Street Markets. Free would be even better.

Had to laugh at the beautiful smoker's lounge - for once not taking up the nicest outdoor spot
Had to laugh at the beautiful smoker’s lounge – for once not taking up the nicest outdoor spot
For some reason Australian's can only be trusted to drink when they're behind a fence
For some reason Australian’s can only be trusted to drink when they’re behind a fence
Car shopping with my wife and baby

The Australian Car Finance Industry Needs a Shakeup

Over the last couple of days I again had the displeasure of shopping for a used car. I had forgotten how bad it was last time until yesterday. It seems in the two and a half years since I last did it, nothing had changed.

I have a fairly complicated financial situation, with quite a bit of debt from a previous failed business. I have two existing loans through ANZ, one in my name and one jointly with my wife. Plus I have an existing car loan though ANZ’s Esanda business. Pretty much all of my finances have been managed through ANZ for the last decade. I’ve never missed a payment, never defaulted and apart from multiple finance restructures my credit record is good.

Car shopping with my wife and baby
Car shopping with my wife and baby

Last time I’d done this 2 years ago, ANZ only offered the car loan through Esanda and I didn’t get the best interest rate, 9.99%. I was disappointed about it because dealer’s finance offered a better rate, but I stuck with ANZ Esanda due to brand loyalty I guess. I was shocked to discover that I couldn’t add the loan to my internet banking. Apparently ANZ’s car loan business runs on an older system to the rest of their credit system and it’s not compatible with Internet Banking.

Given my strong relationship with ANZ it seems obvious to me that I’d likely be best going to ANZ for a new car loan. They’d be most likely to approve my finance because they know my full financial history.

Should be easy as I’m already a customer. Apparently not.

I initially contacted Esanda to find out how much I have left to pay on my current loan. They quote me a balance. I’m not too sure what the point of quoting a balance is though, as the payout balance is the only thing that means anything. I was informed that payout balance they quote only lasts a few days at a time(a week maybe).

On Thursday they could only quote me a payout balance that expired that same day, because it was the regular payment day. The payout balance on Friday would be different, but their rules and computer system prevented them from telling me what Friday’s payout balance would be, despite my fixed interest rate and fixed payments. Not very helpful given I was going car shopping Friday.

They also couldn’t quote me what interest rate I would pay. The interest rate would be dependant on my application’s approval. To find out what they would offer I would have to apply for a loan pre-approval.

Why would I want to apply for a loan when I don’t know it’s terms?

Not wanting to apply for something I didn’t have full details of, I went to ANZ’s web site, where they were offering a ANZ Secured Car Loan with an online offer of 7.29%. Great, that’s a lower rate than I currently had and appeared fixed.

So I rang ANZ to ask details about it. Yes it’s rate was 7.29% if you’re approved. You’re either approved for 7.29% or you’re not getting a loan. That seemed great to me. I asked the question about Internet Banking. Turns out the ANZ Car Loans are the same thing as Esanda, running on the same antiquated, non internet-connected system. Really!

Despite that, I figured lets go for it. So I go into the online application process. Despite myself and my wife being existing ANZ customers, we fill in a huge amount of details about ourselves that ANZ already knows, such as current address, previous address and the like. We then get asked about our financial position. So we have to tell ANZ about the ANZ loans we have, which they know more about than we do.

Finally I get to the end of the process. I click Submit.

What I got after submitting my car loan application online
What I got after submitting my car loan application online

Great. My whole application was gone. I hadn’t saved it on the way through as I intended to complete the application in one go. I couldn’t apply over the phone, because the 7.29% deal was not available over the phone, only online.

So I went through the process again, this time saving at every step. Got to the end, same problem.

The next morning I tried again to submit my application. Still had the same problem. For the record, the ANZ Secured Car Loan application process is still “down for routine maintenance” this morning, two days after my first attempt.

At this point I took to twitter, complaining about my frustration. To their credit, ANZ’s social media team responded quickly:

I replied with the appropriate details and was informed they’d get a car loan officer to contact me as soon as possible.

Two days later I still haven’t received a call.

The annoying thing is, even if I had decided to apply over the phone rather than internet, I would still have to wait for a loan officer to return my call. You can just call up and apply immediately.

Overall it’s been a very poor customer service experience. I ultimately decided not to buy a car at this point, but if I had I have no doubt it’d be the same frustration as last time with back and forth between me, the bank and the dealer to finally complete the deal.

So here’s what I want to see from a car loan product by a big bank:

  • Online application that allows me to just confirm or update the existing information the bank knows about me, including the details of the loans I already have.
  • Instant online approval if the application meets pre-determined rules. If a manual intervention is required, it should be handled within 30 business minutes.
  • Funds available immediately after approval, either by real time bank transfer settlement or via my debit card.
  • The loan should be connected to my internet banking.
  • Easy online process when you want to upgrade to a new vehicle.

It shouldn’t be hard.

The technology can handle it. It’s just a case of “that’s not how we do things around here”. They’re too fixed in this old school sales model of customer service officers being commissioned salespeople. It’s time to break this old antiquated model and change to something that works for customers and provides a non-dealer finance choice that is quick and easy.

 

Protecting my Rack It Work Bench Top

After completing my Rack It Work Bench Kit construction, I wanted to protect the MDF bench top surface from damage. Initially I’d intended to use a spray lacquer or varnish, however my father-in-law recommended I use a Carnauba Wax. He advised it is more suited to the purpose and the surface can easily be restored in the future by re-waxing.

I purchased a 500 gram tin of Carnauba Wax from Bunnings. It’s available in either natural or brown. I probably would have gone with the natural colour if I had seen it, but instead I’ve got the brown.

To apply the Carnauba Wax, you smear some from the can onto a clean cloth and wipe a thin coating onto the surface with a circular motion. I found this to be a bit difficult to achieve a smooth consistent coating.

My less than perfect job of the underside
My less than perfect job of the underside

Fortunately I had started with the underside of the workbench, because I ended up with a blotchy finish with some spots much darker than other where more Carnauba had been applied.

After consulting with my father-in-law again, he suggested putting the Carnauba on the inside of a folded cloth and applying it through the cloth. This worked much better as the wax was applied at a much more constant rate as it squeezed through the fine holes in the cloth. I used this technique on the top surface and got a much more consistent end result.

Applying the wax through the cloth
Applying the wax through the cloth

Doing this is quite labor intensive but took about an hour for each side with lots of circular motions to spread the wax consistently and rub it in.

After leaving it to settle for 15 minutes, the surface is then buffed with another clean cloth to remove the excess Carnauba Wax that hasn’t been absorbed into the surface. This probably would have been easier with an electric buffer, but I was able to get a smooth surface result with just hand labor with a cloth. I used white cloth rags I bought in a bag from Bunnings cheap.

The completed job
The completed job

Overall I was quite happy with my end result. I think it looks great and it’ll protect the surface nicely as I use my workbench.

Mounting a Vice to a Rack It Work Bench

Having just put together my Handy Storage Rack It Work Bench Kit, I now wanted to mount a vice on it. Prior to doing this I’d already treated the MDF surface of the work bench with Carnauba Wax to provide it with some protection and to smooth it.

Positioning the Vice

I decided to position my vice to the right hand side of the workbench. There’s a bit of information around online about where to position it, but I decided to go as far to the right hand as I could, so as to keep the flat surface of the bench clear. It gives me good space for cutting things on the right hand side of the bench which is mostly what I’ll be using it for.

bench-vice-holes
Holes drilled in MDF bench top

Drilling the Holes

The vice I have has two slots of either side for bolts and a hole underneath the centre at the rear which is hard to get to. I decided to use 75mm M12 bolts through each hole. Marking the hole positions for the side holes was easy but the rear centre hole was harder as I couldn’t just stick a marker through it.

Instead I marked the centre of the back edge of the vice, then used digital callipers to measure the distance from the back edge to the edge of the hole which was 10mm. The diameter of the hole was 14mm. This gave me a distance 17mm from the centre of the back edge of the vice to the centre of the hole.

I used a Dewalt hand held drill to drill out the holes with a 1/2″ bit which gave a slight bit of clearance for the M12 bolts. Drilling through the MDF was quite easy, but I took it slowly to prevent damage to the surrounding material.

Once the holes were drilled I put the vice on top to check that the bolts would go through into the right holes for confirmation.

Cutting two Metal Plates

Completed metal sheets

To provide some extra protection against damage to the bench top, I followed some advice I found online to put a piece of steel above and below the bench top where the vice was. I used some .75mm Galvanised Steel for this which was cut with a bimetal blade on a jigsaw to 165mm squares.

Marking out the sheet was a matter of placing the square in the right position on top of the bench then placing the vice on top and marking with a pen through the holes. Marking the rear centre hole required some calculation though.

The bottom plate was marked out(in a different position due to the bench frame) by putting it on the bottom of the bench and marking through my drill holes. I then mounted it to my other work bench and drilled through the holes progressing from small bits to large bits as I don’t really have the right tool for this. I had to round out the holes a bit with the side of my 1/2″ drill bit to reef them out a bit as they weren’t perfectly aligned.

Bolting into position

Once all the holes were drilled it was then just a matter of putting the top plate in position, dropping the vice onto it and dropping the side bolts through with a washer. The bottom plate was then positioned underneath and the nut and bolts finger tightened underneath.

The mounted lower base plate

The rear centre bolt was inserted from underneath and a washer and nut applied in the gap underneath the vice slide. Once all in position everything was tightened off with a shifting spanner and socket wrench.

I’ll also be putting some small self tapping screws in the corners of the metal plate just to keep them down perfectly flat so things don’t get caught on it as some of the corners have raised a little.

The completed mounted bench vice

The completed Rack It Heavy Duty Work Bench

Handy Storage Rack It Workbench Kit Review

I’ve been wanting to have a workbench for a while and instead of building from scratch I decided to use the Organised Solutions Handy Storage Rack It Heavy Duty Work Bench Kit from Bunnings. I’d previously built a couple of their Rack It shelving units and had liked their quality.

I paid $169 for the Work Bench Kit and $60 for the Castor Wheel kit as I wanted a mobile workbench.

Rack It Heavy Duty Work Bench Kit Box
Rack It Heavy Duty Work Bench Kit Box

The kit comes in one large box and is quite heavy(more than 16kg) so you may need some assistance to pick it up and carry it. I used a small trailer to carry mine home as it wouldn’t easily fit in a car. Even the castor kit is quite heavy.

After opening the box
After opening the box

Opening the box, the contents are packed with foam to protect them from scratches and marks, although things can move around inside as you tip the package up or down. A single page instruction sheet is included in the Work Bench kit. The assembly is pretty straight forward though.

Unpacking all the components you get two 900mm high end frames(same type as for the shelving) and two 1300mm crossbeams(with brackets for holding the benchtop). The benchtop has nice beveled top edges and overlaps the top of the frame. I had been expecting the same type of MDF sheet as the shelves, but was pleasantly surprised that they supplied a nice solid bench top. It’s not coated or treated that I can tell though, so I’ve been thinking of painting or lacquering it protect the surface a bit.

Assembled frame
Assembled frame

Assembly is simple, just push the tabs of the crossbeams into the slots of the end frames and slide them down till they lock. Lock the first crossbeam into both end frames then the second. Then use either a mallet, or hammer with a wooden block for protection, to tap the crossbeams firmly home in their slots. Locking pins then go through holes in the joins so the crossbeams don’t come out.

At this stage I decided to put the castor wheels on. I figured it would be easier to put the wheels on before putting the heavy benchtop on the frame.

Rack It Workbench Castors
Rack It Workbench Castors

Unfortunately the castor wheel kit wasn’t as a good as the Work Bench Kit. While the castors seem to be great heavy duty quality, there were no instructions. The castors fit firmly on the bottom of the frame legs and have wedges to spread the load better. While the Rack It kits don’t really require tools to assemble, you will need the following tools to attach the castor wheels to the workbench:

  • Shifting spanner
  • Socket ratchet with 17mm socket
  • Size 2 philips head screwdriver

It’s a little awkward to get the bolt through the castor base, leg and wedge. It has to go through at an odd angle which then pulls straight as the nut is tightened off. Getting the castors all on took longer than assembling the whole rest of the frame.

One assembled castor
One assembled castor

Once all the castor wheels were on I then flipped the frame onto the wheels and lifted the benchtop onto the frame. After lining the screw sockets up with all the brackets you then put the screws in to lock the benchtop off. Be careful when doing this that the frame is squarely and firmly down on all it’s castors. The first time I screwed mine into place the workbench would rock back and forth on two wheels. It turned out when I screwed the benchtop off the frame wasn’t quite square.

Loosening the screws off and putting weight on the benchtop pushed all the wheels onto the ground and straightened it up, then I screwed it all secure. In the end it’s all very firm and solid.

Overall Conclusion

The completed Rack It Heavy Duty Work Bench
The completed Rack It Heavy Duty Work Bench

The Rack It Heavy Duty Work Bench Kit from Bunnings is a great budget package for anyone who wants a decent garage work bench. It’s solid and with the castor wheels easily mobile.

It’s quick and easy to put together with the Work Bench itself taking me just 1 hour to put together by myself. If you want the castor wheels though prepare for it to take 1 extra hour to put them on.

Scroll to the bottom to see the modifications I’ve made after building my Work Bench.

Full Construction Gallery

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My Modifications

I wanted to protect my work benchtop a bit from damage as the MDF coating is porous and possibly would get damaged over time. So I applyed a coat of Carnauba Wax to protect the surface.

I also added a lower shelf for me to store and carry tools on. I’ll also mount an RCD Power Board on it to provide electrical supply. I’ve mounted a Rack It hook at the rear to hold a coiled power cable.

Work Bench with added shelf
Work Bench with added shelf and hook

I’ve also mounted a bench vice on top of the bench too.

My complete Work Bench, with extra shelf, waxed benchtop and mounted vice.
My complete Work Bench, with extra shelf, waxed benchtop and mounted vice.