Category Archives: Personal

Notes on Entry and Result Management at the Pan Pacific Masters Games Swimming 2018

Last week I attended my 3rd Pan Pacific Masters Games(PPMG) Swimming competition in the role of Chief Recorder. This is a role that I have created and developed over my time as Director of Recording for Masters Swimming Queensland, and which I believe is critically important to the running of successful large swimming meets. 

Preparing to run the meet

In 2018 we had 564 competitors in the PPMG Swimming event. Many of these entrants came from outside of Australia, with a large contingent from New Zealand, New Caledonia and China. This presents a significant challenge to handle. Manual input of entries in to the sports event management software, Hy-Tek Meet Manager, would take many days of work for volunteers. In the past it has been very prone to error. Masters Swimming Queensland has its own online entry system which interoperates with Hy-Tek Meet Manager, but it is usually open only to members.

To handle this, since 2014 I’ve developed tools which allow the data from the PPMG Administration’s entry system to be imported into the Masters Swimming Queensland system. The system uses a multistep approach which allows errors to be detected and dealt with. Every year the PPMG Administration has had a different data format for entries, so for each of the bi-annual events changes have had to be made to the system. 

In step 1, the CSV of the entries is uploaded to the MSQ Entry Manager system and a list of entries is created. In Step 2, matches between PPMG Entrants and masters swimming members known by MSQ Entry Manager are flagged and linked. In Step 3, temporary event memberships are created in the MSQ Entry Manager system for non-members and international entrants. Then in Step 4, individual event entries are created for all entrants in the MSQ Entry Manager system.

Individual event entries include what is known as a seed time. This is the entrant’s estimation of what time they expect to swim in the event. This time is used to put entrants into heats with other entrants of similar capabilities. 

As part of Step 4 mentioned above, I’ve developed Natural Language Processing technology which takes a wide variety of time formats and converts them into the internally used quantity of seconds. For instance, the correct time format for “2 minutes, 34.23” seconds is “2:34.23”, but this may be entered by users as “2:34:23” or “2.34.23”. Or it may be spelled out as “2 min 34.23 sec”. I’ve had an automatic time normalisation system in place for some time, but a newly upgraded version is now able to handle all such formats and correctly understand the intention of the user when they typed in the time. I’ll be publishing a paper on this technique along with a reference implementation in the future. 

From this point onwards the entry data can be handled in the MSQ system in the same way as we handle any swimming meet. Standard checks that I’ve developed were against all entry times, looking to flag times that appeared to be too short(less than 20 seconds per 50 metres) or too long(greater than 2 minutes 30 seconds per 50 metres). I have plans to add automated checks against national and world record times, as well as against individual competitor personal bests, but there was not enough time to get these prepared for the PPMG2018 meet. 

The ultimate result of this was that we had one of the cleanest sets of entry data we’ve ever had for a Masters Games. All errors found in the draft entry lists were due to user error by the entrants. Quite simply they were caused by people typing in the wrong entry time, or selecting the wrong events or entrants not knowing how long it would take them to swim a particular event. 

There were some issues that carried over from the PPMG entry system. Where entrants had edited their entries on the PPMG entry system, the edits were not reflected in the exported data provided to sports organisers by PPMG. However this was easily rectified because I was able to publish draft lists and we had the time and capacity to make changes to entries before the start of the event. We were able to accepted several late entries and late changes, because our entry management systems were so efficient and refined. 

In the final days before the meet, I produced meet programmes for printing and extracted statistics about competitors for use in the handouts to competitors. PPMG Administration required full updates on any changes to the entries for the swimming competition, so I used Trello to manage my workflow. I created boards for To Do, Doing, Waiting, Done, PPMG Informed and PPMG Information Not Required. When a new change request came in via any channel(email, phone, etc), I immediately created a card for it in To Do. Where changes could not be actioned due to further information needed, these were put into Waiting, with notes about the next action required. Once complete each card was moved into Done. From there I made a decision on whether or not PPMG Administration need to be informed. If so, I emailed it to them in the next batch and once done moved the card to PPMG Informed. Otherwise I’d put the card into PPMG Information Not Required, for changes that PPMG Administration didn’t need to know about. This allowed me to keep PPMG Administration fully informed on all changes they needed.  

Unfortunately, there were some data corruption issues in the import this time. Some non-master’s member entrants were imported into the system as female incorrectly. This was quickly corrected before the day the meet started. It was isolated to just a small subset of the entries and they were able to be manually checked. The few that were missed were fixed when entrants checked the draft entry list. Others had club information not import correctly, partially because international masters were non-consistent about how they provided their club details. This would have to be resolved as the meet proceeded. 

During the Competition

During the competition I oversaw all matters related to event entries and results. Actual operation of the timing system(Quantum Automated Officiating Equipment or AOE) and the meet software(Hy-Tek Meet Manager 7) was handled by two highly skilled contracted staff members who work with the venue on a regular basis. 

My role was to act as an interface between Masters Swimming Queensland and the recording staff to ensure that MSQ’s needs were met. I was responsible for changes to the programme, entries and the integrity of the results. 

Where changes were to be made to the programme on future days, I would handle these each night after competition. Where a change was to be made in a future event on the same competition day, this was handled by the recording operator. Changes to the currently running event were delegated to the Marshalling team, who would then inform recording. This approach enables us to ensure that entrants are able to flexibly change their entries as needed. If a competitor arrives late for a heat, marshalling is able to put them into an empty lane from another heat. Provided the information is given to recording in a timely fashion, the scoreboard and result information can be immediately updated to reflect the change and to ensure that the correct person receives the correct change. 

I’ve always taken the approach that if I can accomodate an entrant’s request for a change, I will. I want the competitors to enjoy the event as much as possible, so they’ll want to return again in the future. Arbitrary rules based on perceived data management limitations prevent this. With the right team and the right procedures in place, result data management doesn’t limit changes to sporting event entries. In sporting events where individuals are competing directly by their own performance there is no good reason to not allow changes to programmes right up to the last minute.

Daily Routine

During a large swim meet my start of day routine is as follows:

  1. Check overnight scratchings and programme change requests. Action where possible.
  2. Produce a Meet Manager backup file for start of day, provide to Meet Manager operator.
  3. Produce Marshalling Sheets and provide to Marshalling, so they can get started with organising events and heats for the day. I also provide Marshalling with two copies of the programme.
  4. Produce Lane Sheets and provide to Chief Timekeeper, so they can be distributed to Lane Timekeepers.
  5. Produce programmes for the refereeing officials as necessary.

This order of processing ensures that the other teams working on the meet get what they need in order of priority. Recording takes the highest priority followed by marshalling. Marshalling needs to have heat swimmers organised 5-10 minutes ahead of their actual heat, so they need their information before other officials. After that the lane timekeepers need to have their paperwork so they can write down information on whether or not there was a swimmer in their lane and any changes to the expected swimmer’s identity. Finally the referees need programmes to know who they have in different lanes. They have the lowest priority however as if they need to they can work simply from heat number and lane number, referring to recording to find out the identity of the infracting swimmer. 

By following this start of day process, even when there are technical delays, I can help ensure the meet can get underway on time. 

Throughout the meet, I ensure that any recording problems are quickly resolved. 

Each afternoon at the end of meet I did the following:

  1. Get a copy of the backup from the main recording computer.
  2. Produce a report of all the day’s results with splits to be sent to the PPMG Administration and MSQ for posting on their respective websites. 
  3. Export interim results for upload to the MSA Results Portal.
  4. Action updates and changes known for subsequent days.

Relays

The other big task for me in my role as Chief Recorder is overseeing the organisation of relay teams. Normally this has been entirely done on the day at the PPMG. This year PPMG Administration allowed entrants to nominate and pay for relay entries when people entered the PPMG. This presented some challenges.

The MSQ Entry Manager system previously only tracked the overall cost and overall payment of an entrants entry to the entire swimming meet. This would not easily allow us to track relay nomination payments. 

I had to make some decisions about system design and business rules to enable tracking of these nominations and payments:

  • Nominating for a relay event does not automatically put you in a relay team. 
  • If you’re a member of a club, that club can see your nomination to know that you want to be in that relay event.
  • If your club put you in a relay team, in an event you’d nominated for, your nomination payment would be applied to your position in the team. The club would only need to pay the remainder for those members who had not already paid.
  • Your club may choose not to put you in their relay team for the event you nominated in. In this case you may be a member of an unattached team, and your nomination payment would be applied to your position in the unattached team.
  • If you’re not a member of a club, you can nominate on the day to be a member of a team, pay the nomination fee and we would attempt to put you in a random team.
  • Anyone can register a team of four people and pay the nomination fee for those members of the team who had not already nominated and paid online.
  • If you had nominated for a relay event, but not been in a team for that event, your nomination fee could be applied to your position in a team in another event. 

I upgraded the MSQ Entry Manager system to track the cost of event nominations and payments for those nominations. I created an interface to track those payments. I had planned to also allow new nominations and payments to be recorded, but this was not completed in the end due to time constraints and competing priorities. 

An existing interface from previous MSQ meets was used to show the cost of each relay team, and the payments made online for those relay entries. Now that the meet has been completed, I will be exporting these details to Excel spreadsheets so that total amount owed by clubs for relay entries can be calculated and invoiced via PayPal. 

Non-club relay team payments on the day were noted in a receipt book for future reconciliation. It would have been good to have this handled in the MSQ Entry Manager system, but again due to time constraints this wasn’t possible. 

In future events I’ll have this interface prepared and volunteers trained in advance to operate the relay tasks. 

The other part of relay nominations at PPMG meets is actually getting the team information into the Meet Manager system. Relay nominations can be entered directly into Meet Manager, but this is not a user friendly process and requires a second computer linked to the live Meet Manager recording computer.

At my first PPMG, I spent many hours entering paper relay team forms into Meet Manager. This process was laborious and difficult. Some people’s writing was unreadable. Forms were not completely filled out. Entrant names were not able to be found in the entrant list, or entrants had been entered into more than one relay team in the event. After this debacle, I built a new jQuery based relay entry system for PPMG16. 

At PPMG16 the new system mean that the volunteers at the Relay Desk directly entered entries into Entry Manager’s Relay Entries module. It would prevent people being in more than one team, and allow search and selection of relay team members from the competitor list. It enforced relay team rules, for instance club relays were only able to have members from that club, whereas unattached relays could have any entrant in them. The system was very successful at that meet and cut relay entry workload considerably. In the end it proved to be easier for the Relay Desk volunteers to take a paper form and then enter it into the computer later, than processing it in the computer at the time of presentation. However other rules I enforced, such as fully filling out relay forms before they could be accepted and requiring relay team contact phone numbers, meant that the desk was easily able to get all relay teams organised with limited involvement by me.

The new MSQ Entry Manager Club Relay Teams module
The new MSQ Entry Manager Club Relay Teams module

Once relay teams were created in MSQ Entry Manager, they were able to be downloaded as a hy3 file for direct import into Meet Manager. This meant no double handling of the already checked relay entry data and minimal errors. 

This time, there were less volunteers available for the relay desk, so on the first day of relays, I needed to spend most of the morning at the relay desk. This lack of volunteers and the early relay events on Day 2 made the day a bit of a struggle. However the system still performed well. Some international masters member club data corruption issues originating in the import of PPMG entrant data did require a small amount of remediation after import into Meet Manager, but the workload was still considerably less than if we’d done it the old way.

As previously mentioned, we intended to put people who had nominated online for a relay event into random teams if they did not find their own team. We did this on the first day of relay events. However many of the people we put into into teams never turned up at marshalling. On the remaining days we only put people who had presented to the relay desk into teams. There were no complaints about this change and it meant less stranded relay team members. 

The club data corruption also seemed to cause some problems with the scoreboard when relays were imported into Meet Manager. Entries are usually imported into Meet Manager using a hy3 file. Checking the hy3 files showed no differences between a hy3 file exported by Hy-Tek Team Manager and a hy3 file exported from MSQ Entry Manager. Yet after importing relays the scoreboard’s country field showed the club name, instead of country of origin. The issue had not appeared when the same system was used for PPMG16 and the MSA National Championships in 2017 at the same venue. Further analysis and testing will be required to remediate the problem for future events. 

This year I developed and deployed a new online relay entry module was for Masters Swimming clubs to use when registering their relay teams for the PPMG event. Instead of having to go to the relay desk with forms, Masters clubs were able to register a club captain who was then able to use an online interface to register their teams. The module was built using a frontend based on Bootstrap4. As this had to be implemented in our legacy Joomla CMS, the functionality was built using jQuery. Implementing the advanced functionality such a two-way data binding was more difficult in jQuery, but ultimately it was possible to provide a very modern, accessible and easy to use user experience. Over half the relay teams in the meet were registered via the tool and feedback from clubs was very positive. 

I will be reimplementing the new relay system in Angular and be part of the new MSQ Quick Entry system under development for future meets. This will allows us to retire the old Joomla CMS based entry system and give me the ability to implement new functionality more easily. 

Other Recording Functions

Another function I provide during swim meets is the delivery of statistics and meet information to the announcer. Records broken are provided where possible to the announcer to inform the competitors and spectators. This is secondary to my role of ensuring the meet recording runs smoothly. In this particular meet, due to various time constraints and lack of volunteers, I was only able to provide limited updates to the announcer. In future I’d like to organise a dedicated person in the recording team to provide such information to the announcer, PPMG Administration and media as applicable. This would mean that these functions continue even if I’m busy troubleshooting other higher priority issues. 

This meet was the second major event where MSQ has included Multi-class competition. Competitors with disabilities are able to compete in the same heats and events as able-bodied athletes and are scored in their own age group categories. This is something quite new for Masters Swimming in Australia and we still lack sophistication in this area. By and large the multi-class part of the event functioned well, but there were issues in registration and results publishing. Primarily these relate to us just not having a comprehensive understanding of how Meet Manager handles multi-class results, and not yet having a fully developed set of procedures. Through the lessons learnt out of PPMG18, I intend to develop a full set of procedures to be adopted at state and club levels, which will make our operation of future multi-class events easier and trouble-free. 

I’ve made contacts with Victorian clubs who are also involved with multi-class and intend to use the connections to work towards an effective nation-wide approach for multi-class recording in Masters Swimming. 

In Conclusion

Since the end of the event I’ve received a lot of praise for the way the swimming event was run at the Pan Pacific Masters Games 2018. This was a major team effort with huge contributions from Meet Director Shane Knight, MSQ Administrator Christina Scolaro, Susanne Milenkevich, Martin Banks and many, many others. I’d especially like to thank Liala Davighi for her help with relays. 

Over coming months I’m planning to consolidate the lessons learned and start building our systems for the next large MSQ events, starting with State Championships in 2019 and the Great Barrier Reef Masters Games. I hope to build an ongoing team in the recording space to ensure we can have world class data systems that allow MSQ to lead innovation in community sports events. 

Not many people actually realise all the work that goes into running a major swimming meet. There’s been months in the lead up, and there’s still weeks worth of work for me. I still have to provide official results to international Masters Swimming governing bodies and finalise relay reconciliation information to provide to our finance auditors. At least a couple more weeks of work in evenings and weekends outside my full-time job and family responsibilities. Hopefully this helps people understand what goes into running such an event.

 

Tasmania Holiday 2018 – Part 1

In late February 2018 we took our young family(2 3/4 years and 7 month old) to Tasmania to visit my Grandmother who lives in Pontypool on the East Coast of Tasmania. This blog post has a short listing of what we did and tips for doing a similar trip with young children.

Parking

Having two young children meant getting a lift to the airport wouldn’t really work for us. Also as we needed our pram and car seats in Tasmania, the AirTrain wouldn’t work either. So we decided to use an airport parking service. As it turned out there was a special on the Brisbane Airport ParkValet service. 

This option was fantastic for us. We were able to drive straight in and had plenty of space to unload the car seats and luggage from the car. There was also a concierge option that we probably would have taken, but it was only offered when we first booked and we couldn’t add it later. We didn’t really need it in the end though.

All our luggage and car seats unloaded at Brisbane Airport ParkValet
All our luggage and car seats unloaded at Brisbane Airport ParkValet

The Flight to Hobart

Our flights were on Virgin Australia, who helpfully let you take any baby related stuff on your flight without any excess baggage charges. We needed to book a seat for Lily as she is over 2, but Jasmine rode in Jacqui’s lap.

We got to board the plane first, with passengers who had special needs. This gave us time to get the kids on board, carry-on stowed away and everyone settled. Jasmine had a special infant seatbelt that attached on to Jacqui’s. She didn’t much like being strapped in and tried to squirm out as much as possible. 

On the way down Lily sat between us and I(David) sat by the window. Lily is prone to being very upset by loud noises such as motorbikes. However she was actually excited by the take off and wasn’t upset at all. We didn’t have any ear problems on the ascent either.

David, Lily, Jacqui and Jasmine on our flight to Hobart
David, Lily, Jacqui and Jasmine on our flight to Hobart

We were able to keep Lily amused with toys, colouring-in and for a short while the iPhone. She was a bit annoyed that she couldn’t access Netflix or ABC iView and didn’t like anything on Virgin’s entertain app. 

On descent Lily did get quite upset which we believe was due to pain in her ears. We did try a few things to get her to equalise the pressure but she wasn’t able to understand. She didn’t settle until just before landing.

Arrival

On arrival we waited until everyone else was off the plane to get out, so we could pick up all the lost toys from under our seats. On the tarmac we saw a business jet from the USA that had been equipped with weather research equipment for the SOCRATES project, studying the interactions between clouds and particles naturally produced by the ocean, such as sea salt and biogenic particles.

National Center for Atmospheric Research aircraft at Hobart Airport
National Center for Atmospheric Research aircraft at Hobart Airport

When we walked into the terminal we were right in front of the Melbourne Demons AFL team arriving from Melbourne, so there was a WIN TV crew filming us. We were told that Jacqui and Jasmine appeared in the preview and sports news item about it. 

The Hobart terminal arrivals area is quite small so there was a massive crowd around the baggage carousel when I got there. I managed to find a spot near the end and was surprised that the pram and car seats which were taken in oversize luggage in Brisbane came out on the carousel. 

By the time I’d come back Lily had made a friend in the waiting area. The game had become that their daughter would give Lily a lolly, she’d give it to Mum because she didn’t like it, then Jacqui would pass it back to the little girl’s brother. This went on for some time while I organised the hire car pick up. 

Lily made a friend in the terminal
Lily made a friend in the terminal

Hire car pick up was a tag team effort as Jacqui and I swapped duties watching the luggage and filling out paperwork at the Hertz desk. Eventually we were all sorted and we left the terminal. The little girl Lily had befriended was quite upset by this. 

Hire Car

We thought we’d be smart and hire a larger vehicle for our trip. We’d had a struggle fitting our luggage into our Corolla, with one suitcase having to go in the back seat and the other blocking access to the pram in the boot. 

We hired a medium sized SUV, listed on Hertz as a Nissan Qashqai or similar. We ended up with a Mitsubishi ASX. Immediately I noted a problem. There was no way to fit a pram and suitcases in the boot. In fact all it would fit was a pram. Even if we removed the rear parcel shelf cover there’d still be not enough space to fit them and it’d be dangerous without a cargo barrier.

So it turns out a Toyota Corolla sedan actually has more cargo space than a medium SUV Mitsubishi ASX.

It took quite some time to get the car seats installed and adjusted. This was complicated by light rain at the time. One frustrating thing I found was that after I’d installed Lily’s car seat, the rear seatbelt was looped in the wrong place. So I had to try to move the seat forward without completely removing the car seat. After what seemed like forever and several escape attempts by Lily, we got in the car and headed off to go up the East Coast to Grandma’s place.

Brat Runs Amok on National TV

Today’s cutesy viral video is from the UK where a mother was being interviewed on TV with her two children. The younger toddler runs around the studio, climbing up on the desk and everyone ignores it. In fact everyone laughs and thinks it was cute!

As the father of two children under 3 I find this behaviour absolutely disgusting. Not the toddler’s behaviour, I know toddlers sometimes do run amok even with the best discipline and training. 

The problem I have with this is everyone’s reaction, especially the mother’s. It’s not okay to ignore such terrible behaviour in public. It’s not funny, it’s not cute, it’s unacceptable. 

You see this in public places every day. Parents are standing in the queue for a bank teller for instance, meanwhile their kids are terrorising the whole bank, climbing on chairs and counters, drawing all over forms and making too much noise. Usually the parents are completely oblivious to their little brats anti-social behaviour. 

Children must be taught that there are times where they must stand still and quiet with their parents. On several occasions I stood at the swimming pool holding my daughter’s hand while she pulled and screamed as we waited for her mother to get changed. She just wanted to run around and play.

However after consistently making her stand still and asking her to be quiet, now when I do this she does stand still with me and remain mostly quiet while waiting. She’ll also sit with me in a chair quietly and wait for long periods of time. Sure I often have to remind her to sit still and quiet, but she will do it most of the time. Yes she tries to test the boundaries, but with constant reinforcement it’s possible to keep her behaving. 

Courteous behaviour in public, respect for other people and their property and waiting are all major life skills that children need to learn. We do nothing to help them learn those skills by laughing at or calling it cute when they misbehave.

Fitness and Swimming Goals

I’ve been pretty lazy and busy lately, so my fitness has dropped off. I got to 85kg, the heaviest I’ve ever been. So I’ve set a goal to get back to peak fitness again. 

Since I’ve been so busy with our baby, I’ve not been swimming as much. I used to swim at least twice a week and was state masters champion in some events. I’ve fallen a lot since then. In the last 12 months I have barely swum. For the last few months I’ve been swimming once a week when I can. Time to get back into it!

So as of today I’m 80kg, thanks to cutting back on sugar, particularly Coke, and walking a lot. I usually walk 8000 steps a day or 4-6km a day, according to my iPhone 6. 

Swimming Target

It’ll take a long time to get my distance swimming endurance back. However if I work hard on my strength and anaerobic fitness, I should be able to get back into sprinting quickly. I’ll need to improve my technique as well, as it’s not as good as it used to be. 

Here’s my goal:

To swim 50m in under 30 seconds by the end of 2017

I’ve never done it before. My personal best is 30.51 in the 50m Long Course at Somerville House on 17/03/2013 at the Masters Swimming Queensland State Championships. 

Bodyweight Fitness

I discussed Bodyweight Fitness in Reddit’s /r/bodyweightfitness. I quite like its philosophy. I’m planning to use it to improve my muscle strength. I’ve already started, using an iOS app by one of the people involved in the subreddit. You can find it here: The ultimate mobile app for Bodyweight Fitness.

Training partner

I did my first set using the app today, but didn’t make it all the way through. The exercises feel good though, and even my toddler daughter seemed to want to get in on it. Might have a training partner soon!

Skiiddii Bicycle Child Trailer Review

We purchased a trailer for our bikes to enable us to carry our toddler with us when we go for bike rides. We purchased the Skiidii Bicycle Trailer for $149 on eBay from seller Faji Plaza. The trailer has provision for two small children to ride on it side by side.

The trailer arrived in a flat square box weighing 17kg. We had ours delivered to our Australia Post postbox without any problems. Delivery occurred within a week of order.

On opening the box you find a large folded trailer body, some tubular sections, some wheels and other components. The tools required to assemble the trailer are provided with the kit, a couple of small spanners and an Allen key. I chose to use a socket set and ratchet spanner as this was easier. You’ll need an 11mm hex socket.

At first I thought no instructions were supplied and this made it difficult to figure out how to get the trailer properly assembled. However it turned out the instruction booklet had been wrapped up in the fabric cover for the trailer. Unfortunately, the instructions are pretty badly translated.

I started by unfolding the trailer body and installing the cross bar that supports the roof of the trailer and holds the uprights in the vertical position. It fits together using plastic brackets on each end and some locking pins.

Locking pin
Locking pin

After this I installed the axle(which required adjusting the holes it goes through). The wheels are locked into place with plastic clips that fit into retention grooves at the end of the axle. The diagrams in the assembly guide aren’t too helpful. Wheel protection bars are then connected which go around the outside of the wheels, retained by spring loaded locking pins.

The trailer can be used as a running pram, so either a front wheel or the tow bar can be attached. The tow bar attaches with two locking pins. You can then remove the bike attachment from the tow bar using its locking pin and install it on the bike’s rear axle. You simply remove one of the screws and put it on the axle before screwing it back on. I installed it on the side that didn’t have the gears.

The plastic brackets for the jogging handle are then installed, but I didn’t install the handle as I won’t be jogging with it. An orange safety flag is also provided. The fabric cover is attached with velcro at the front and back and provides a weathershield as well. There is pretty good visibility for your child to be able to see out.

Assembly took me about 45 minutes in total. Once done I attached it to the bike and gave it a try. At first I accidentally knocked the bike over but the trailer stayed upright. I was happy about that. Riding around with the trailer empty it bounces around quite a lot. With our toddler aboard it still bounces a lot but not too badly. The wheel protection bars do rattle a lot however. They don’t fit snuggly into their slots. So while they won’t fall off, they do make a bit of noise. I may look at putting some thin rubber in the slots so they don’t rattle.

Bike and trailer
Bike and trailer

The child harness isn’t particularly fancy, just being a strap system. This may be a bit of an issue for younger children. Our baby has no problems walking or sitting up but did tend to end up slumping down on the seat. For larger babies I don’t think this will be a problem.

Baby in trailer harness
Baby in trailer harness

Overall I’m happy with the Skiidii Bicycle Trailer so far. We haven’t taken it on long rides yet, but will in coming weeks. Build quality is pretty good for the price. The only real issue is the rattling of the wheel protection bars. I’m sure more expensive models would be much more solid. As noted the assembly manual isn’t too good either.

One other issue we did have was finding a suitable helmet. It seems they start at 48cm at the smallest. A smaller one would have been better for us.

Arlec 20W LED Security Sensor Flood Light Review

We needed a sensor security light for our front yard at our new place. My first thought was the typical standard dual PAR38 sensor flood light setup. These use 2x 150 Watt PAR38 halogen globes. However at Bunnings we saw a new version with 2x 10 Watt PAR38 LED globes. This is a significant power saving over the traditional type.

The version we purchased required electrician installation, but was an easy install for our electrician because the cabling was already in place. The unit is IP44 rated, so is weather proof for outdoor installation. It does need to be out of direct rain though. Ours is installed under the eaves. They can be wall mounted too.

Arlec MAL300 20W LED Sensor Light Installed
Arlec MAL300 20W LED Sensor Light Installed

I was concerned that it might not be as bright as the traditional 150W globes. It is somewhat slightly dimmer than the traditional flood lights, but is still more than adequate for our needs. The dual unit sufficiently lights up our entire front yard, which is about 6m across.

The default twilight setting was fine for making sure the unit didn’t activate during daylight. The default duration time was 2 minutes 45 seconds, which I’ve left alone. I also didn’t have to touch the sensitivity setting. It does activate sometimes when ceiling fans are turned on or off in the house. There are also some other inadvertent activations for no real reason. I’ve been quite happy with it’s operation though. I’ve been able to set it to activate only when someone enters the front yard, or leaves the front door.

Adjustment controls on the sensor light
Adjustment controls on the sensor light

It’s also useful that the unit is rated for 150W globes, so if you do decide that the 10W LED ones aren’t enough, you can swap them out. I bought ours on special for $29.95 at Bunnings.

Front of Arlec MAL300 Box
Front of Arlec MAL300 Box
Side of Arlec MAL300 Box
Side of Arlec MAL300 Box

Handy Storage Rack It Shelving Review

I had the need to store a lot of tools and other junk in my garage and didn’t want to build my own shelves from scratch. So after seeing a relative’s installation, I bought two sets of Handy Storage Rack It shelves from Bunnings. I’ve now had these shelves for two years and can thoroughly recommend them as a great product. I’ve reviewed the Handy Storage Rack It Work Bench Kit previously.

Connecting the side beam to the end frame
Connecting the shelving beam to the end upright

These don’t come in a kit, so you purchase each component separately based on your needs. At a minimum you’ll need two Double Sided End Uprights and four Shelving Beams. The end uprights come in two different widths, 450mm or 600mm. There are different heights ranging from 900mm, 1800mm and 2100mm. I chose the 600mm wide 2100mm high variety which fit under typical garage ceilings.

Assembled Rack It Shelf Frame
Assembled Rack It Shelf Frame

The shelving beams come in a range of lengths to suit your needs. I chose the longest ones, 2400mm. You also get a choice of shelf materials. There is MDF sheets or metal mesh shelves. You can get a range of attachments and accessories such as hooks, small shelves and drawers. I chose the MDF shelves as I had a lot of small items I wanted to store, which would just fall through the metal mesh shelves.

Retaining pin holds the side beam to the end shelf
Retaining pin holds the shelving beam to the end upright

The construction is simple and tool free. You could do it yourself, but it’s much easier if you have a second person to help you out holding frames and the like. The end uprights have slots and the shelving beams have tabs, so you just slot it together and ram it home. A hammer and block of wood is helpful here to get a firm fit, but you could just do it by hand or foot. Metal retaining hooks slot into holes to keep it all safe.

Tensioning straps between sidebeams are hard to attach without weight
Support braces between shelving beams are hard to attach without weight

The most frustrating part of construction is inserting the shelf tensioning straps. These go between the shelving beams on the longer shelves to keep the shelving beams from bending apart under load. The problem is that when there is no weight on the shelves they keep falling out. They do tend to vary in length a bit as well. The easiest way to get them in is to wait until you’ve put the entire shelf unit together and put a bit of weight on it. Then they’ll hold in position.

After a couple of years of use MDF sheets are somewhat warped
After a couple of years of use MDF sheets are somewhat warped

The coating of the metal frames of my shelves has held up pretty well, but there are some scuffs and scratches from moves. Nothing has bent or broken yet though. The MDF sheets shelves I’ve got have sagged a bit where I’ve had heavy items on them. In my latest move I just turned them over so they’ll bend back the other way. Fortunately it’s cheap enough to replace them when they eventually get too saggy. The other problem with the MDF is that it will swell when it gets wet. So just keep them in a dry spot and don’t put leaky things on it.

You could easily make your own ply shelves if you wanted to, but for the cost it may not be worth it. My relatives who have the metal mesh shelves have not had any problems with them.

The completed Bunnings Rack It Shelf unit
The completed Bunnings Rack It Shelf unit

The Bunnings Handy Storage Rack It shelves are very easily configurable and reconfigurable to any needs, much more so than home built shelves. I’d strongly recommend them to anyone who needs shelving in their garage or shed. You’d be hard pressed to do better with a custom constructed shelf.

Below I’ve listed the items required to build the shelf I show in this review.

Rack It Shelf Unit Bill of Materials

Qty
Item
Price(as of 19/02/2016)
Subtotal
Total Cost:
$439.00
2
Rack It 2100mm x 600mm Black Double End Upright
$50.00
$100.00
6
Rack It 2400mm Black Shelving Box Beam
$36.00
$216.00
6
Rack It 1200 x 600mm MDF Timber Shelf
$17.00
$102.00
1
Rack It Safety Pin - 20 Pack
$9.00
$9.00
6
Rack It 600mm Black Beam Support Brace
$2.00
$12.00
Items required to build shelf unit the same as mine in the review.

Our Experience in Applying for a Resident Return Visa(Subclass 155)

My wife Jacqui is a New Zealand citizen who arrived in Australia on a Special Category Visa. Because she was not living in Australia prior to 26th of February 2001, she did not fall into the “Protected” category, which allows for Social Security Act payment eligibility. Also being a temporary resident she had no path to citizenship.

She had however visited Australia for a period of 3 months in 1984 as a baby along with her family. Under the legislation that applied at the time, this made her a permanent resident of Australia for the time that she was here.

On advice from the OzKiwi group campaign group on Facebook, we found out that this might give her eligibility to apply for a Resident Return Visa(Subclass 155). This is a permanent resident Visa. After becoming a permanent resident, she would become eligible for some payments under the Social Security Act and have the ability to apply for citizenship after a year.

We used a guide provided through OzKiwi on how to apply.

Firstly we needed to have proof of her residence back in 1984. She and her family didn’t have any travel records back that far so had no idea of the exact dates. Just that it was the early half of 1984.

Because the travel was more than 30 years ago, the Department of Immigration no longer had the records. They had been transferred to the National Archive of Australia. We made an application for the records via the NAA, based on what little information we had. The application form was online and easy to fill out. It did indicate that we were applying for a quote for a copy, but in the end we didn’t have to pay. We asked for a certified copy and it was provided to us within a couple of weeks.

Once we had those dates we started the application process for the Resident Return Visa(RRV). As Jacqui was a Special Category Visa holder, she didn’t have a Visa Issue number so couldn’t do an online application via the Department of Immigration website. Instead we had to download the Form 1085, print it and fill it out on paper.

When filling out the application you need to advise why you left your permanent residence here. For Jacqui this was because as a baby she had to leave with her family.

You’re also asked to provide evidence of your ongoing ties to Australia. For Jacqui this was that she was married to an Australian Citizen, had a child who was an Australian Citizen, had been employed in Australia and was a partner in a small business in Australia. We provided certified copies of our marriage certificate, child’s birth certificate, proof of employment and business registration. Basically, what you’re being asked to do is to prove that you really want to live in Australia for the long term.

We posted the application to our local Department of Immigration office on a Monday morning. The application payment of $363.89 was taken from our account on Tuesday. On Friday Jacqui received an email advising her that the Resident Return Visa(Subclass 155) had been issued to her. I was surprised how quick the processing was. The website had indicated possibly a processing time of 1 business day, and I’d say that’s accurate. As long as you provide the information required and meet the requirements you’ll get it quick.

Now that she has this Visa, she is eligible for basically any payment under the Social Security Act. Normally there is a Newly Arrived Resident Waiting Period that starts from the date you’re issued a permanent residence visa and lasts 104 weeks. However as she has an immediate family member who is a citizen, this is waived. We’re not intending for her to claim Australian welfare payments, but it is good to have a safety net.

In a year’s time from the date she was issued the visa, we’ll apply for her to get Australian citizenship. She’ll become a dual national, keeping both New Zealand citizenship and Australian citizenship. That will give her the additional benefits of being an Australian, such as access to student loans through the HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP system.

If you are a New Zealand Special Category Visa holder living in Australia who had visited Australia at some point prior to 1 September 1994,  you may want to your eligibility for a Resident Return Visa(Subclass 155). See this resource on the OzKiwi website for more information.

Resources:

Virtual Reality Apps for iPhones

This my list of virtual reality apps that run iOS on iPhones. These apps are suitable for smartphone virtual reality headsets like Google Cardboard or the KMart Virtual Reality Headset I reviewed a few weeks back.

This list is by no means complete but contains the ones that I’ve used and found to be useful. As I don’t have a gamepad controller for my iPhone, I haven’t included any that require a controller to operate. Some do make use of the the magnet, but I’ve never found it to be that reliable.

Note: some of these links are affiliate links and provide me a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to apps that I use and like.

Mobile VR Station

Mobile VR Station on the App Store
Scan with your phone to open in the App Store!

This app allows you to play videos using your virtual reality headset. It’ll play ordinary 2D videos in split screen side by side, but the real beauty of the app comes when you watch videos that have been recorded for 3D virtual reality. It will project these specially recorded videos in half or full 360 degree domes, so you can immersively look around.

It’ll play videos via uPNP from media servers on your network. There are a few issues though. For instance, it will only support the video formats supported by iOS. This meant for iOS8 up to 1920×1080 resolution. This means that for some videos published on the web you’ll need to convert them before they’ll be playable. Still definitely worth the price. Get it here.

Download on the App Store

Roller Coaster VR

Roller Coaster VR on the App Store
Scan with your phone to open in the App Store!

This is a 3D graphical demo of a roller coaster ride around a tropical jungle island. Look at the lever to your right hand side to get it started. It really is quite an impressive experience! Get it here.

Download on the App Store

 

DiveCityCoaster

DiveCityCoaster on the App Store
Scan with your phone to open in the App Store!

Here’s another 3D roller coaster demo, this one made by the company behind Durovis Dive, intended to demonstrate their headset. It’ll work with any type of VR smartphone headset though, so it’s still worth a look. Interestingly I did find there was a bit of gyroscope drift with this one. Still very impressive. Get it here.

Download on the App Store

Constructing a Prusa i3 Rework – Purchase List

I’ve been constructing a RepRap Prusa i3 Rework. Instead of buying a full kit, I’ve bought components from different suppliers choosing the best economical options I could find for each part.

Here is the purchase list of what I’ve bought and where(prices listed are in Australia Dollars):

6mm CNC Cut Plywood Frame – $34.10 – eBay seller 3dprinter_frame

MK2B 12V 24V PCB Heat Bed for Prusa Mendel – $11.07 – eBay Seller elec-mall

5x NTC 3950 Thermistor 100K with 1 metre wire – $5.05 – eBay Seller satisfyelectronics

6x 8mm x 495mm 304 Stainless Steel Smooth Rods – $25 + $9 shipping – eBay Seller billsrepairs

12x LM8UU Linear Bearing for 8mm Shaft – $11.80 – eBay Seller morellitech

10x 624ZZ 4mm x 13mm x 5mm Radial Ball Bearings – $3.30 – eBay Seller shanghaimagicbox4

10x 608ZZ Deep Grove Ball Bearing – $4.99 – eBay Seller shanghaimagicbox4

Borosilicate Glass Plate 200mm x 214 mm – $18 + $7 shipping – eBay Seller learcnc

3mm Cork Heated Bed Insulation – $12.95 – eBay Seller layr3dprinting

2x ACME Leadscrew Tr8x8 300m Brass Nut – $43.95 – eBay Seller learcnc

5x 38mm Nema17 Stepper Motors – $69.85 – eBay Seller learcnc

2m GT2 Timing Belt 2mm Pitch 6mm Width – $5.90 + $2.50 shipping – eBay Seller learcnc

2x GT2 20T Pulley 8mm Bore – $12.90 – eBay Seller learcnc

RepRap Prusa i3 Rework 1.5 ABS 3D Printed Plastic Parts -$37.95 – eBay Seller vuuee

Short J-Head Extruder with Nozzle Heater and Thermistor – $32.00 – eBay Seller billsrepairs

3x Economy Mechanical Endstop – $13.35 + $3.00 shipping – eBay Seller learcnc

This list is a work in progress, I’ll be updating it as I go along. It’s possible some of these items aren’t the right ones. I’ll have to figure that out as I assemble it.