Issues with my Vortex Race 3 Keyboard @Vortexkb

I mentioned earlier that I am on the quest to find the perfect keyboard. My first keyboard in this quest was the Vortex Race 3. In short: I both love it and hate it.

I’ve come to realize a few notable issues with the board, and I’m not finding any information online that would help me resolve these issues.

First, Mac Mode (Fn+M) does not swap Alt and Command. I had to resort to a layer for custom programming to swap them.

Second, the 32 keystroke limit does not work. It will only take 4 keystrokes maximum in a programmed macro. I validated it in a text file. I set Fn+C to be 10 contiguous “a”s. It only distributed 4 of them. I set Fn+\ to be Command+Spacebar, Fn+B, “safari”, Fn+B, RETURN; it would only bring up Spotlight and then “s”—the 4th keystroke.

Third, macros are erratic even when their total strokes are less than 4. For instance, I created an Automator application to a bunch of AppleScripted keystrokes to simulate copy in one application, switching to two different applications and pasting in the clipboard. I then set that Automator application to run via a Quicksilver trigger—Command+Shift+\. To simply the keystrokes to invoke the application, I programmed Fn+C to be Command (Alt in programming mode)+Shift+\. The results are sporadic and inconsistent, but usually what I get is the existing clipboard pasted into the two desired applications instead of the current selection. Every so often, it works as designed, but the overwhelming majority of the time it fails However, if I do the Command+Shift+\ shortcut, it works 100% of the time.

Not sure what to make of these issues, but it is leading me to believe that the Vortex Race 3 is an inferior product. I’d like to think that updating the firmware would resolve these issues, but additional reports online show that some firmware updates have created new issues along the way; furthermore, I don’t have Windows, so I can’t update anyway. It’s sad, because I like the keyboard.



The Quest for the Perfect Keyboard: VortexGear Race 3

The Quest for the Perfect Keyboard: VortexGear Race 3

My coworker has been using this tiny mechanical keyboard for a while now, and, although I previously thought he was silly for it, I now see its appeal and benefits.

I currently find myself on the quest to find the perfect keyboard for myself as a result.

However, my same coworker says there is no such a hint as the perfect keyboard, so I should stick with the first one I find and purchase.

That became a personal challenge for me to prove wrong.

I started with a Vortex Race 3. It’s a 75% keyboard, smaller than a ten key-less, but still includes arrows and some special buttons like home, end, etc. I got it with Cherry MX Blue switches.

I like the Blue switches. They are tactile and clicky, meaning there is a bump you can slightly feel and a sound you can hear.

I like the programmable layers to create macros or simplified commands.

I like the PBT keycaps. They look and feel really nice.

I also like the extra keycaps it came with so that I could swap out the Windows key for Mac command keys.

I wish it were backlit though, and, along with seemingly everyone else, I wish the escape key were a standard 1u for customization purposes. Additionally, I wish the homing F and J keys had bumps. I believe these keys have slightly deeper grooves, if at all, which isn’t working for me. I wish it had an eject key as well. The left and right Command keys are too small at 1.25u and 1u, respectively. Finally, while I like the Blue switches, they are super sensitive. I am making a lot of typos right now.

So, my next keyboard will be the WhiteFox with Clear switches. Let’s see how a 60% keyboard works for me. More to come.

A word on my setup. I am using the third programmable layer, which is the Blue Layer or Layer 4. The Right Alt is my Fn key. Simply pressing Fn+Shift cycles through layers, and I leave mine on Blue. Why? First of all, I like blue. Second, Mac mode (Fn+M) only works properly with the latest firmware, which I cannot install without the PC I do not already possess. Mac mode automatically swaps Alt for Winkey and uses Command for Alt as well as enabling media and brightness keys on the function row to mirror an Apple keyboard all in the default un-programmable layer. And, third, all my modified shortkey commands have to be programmed, so I need to be in a layer.

Here is what I have programmed in Blue:

  • F1 (shortkey)= Fn+F1 (original combo): Mute (result)
  • F2 = Fn+F2: Reduce Volume
  • F3 = Fn+F3: Increase Volume
  • F4 = Fn+F4: Previous Track
  • F5 = Fn+F5: Play/Pause
  • F6 = Fn+F6: Next Track

And, because I can’t use Mac mode, I swapped these keys:

  • Winkey (original) = Left Alt (result)
  • Left Alt = Left Command
  • Right Alt = Right Command
  • Fn = Right Alt (keycap swap only)

I then assigned the following Automator services:

  • F7: Move to folder w
  • F8: Move to folder x
  • F9: Move to folder y
  • F10: Move to folder z
  • F11: Show Notification Center
  • F12: Toggle Do Not Disturb
  • Control+Alt+Command+F12: Sleep
  • Control+Alt+Command+’=’: Display Sleep
  • Control+Alt+Command+L: Launch application L
  • Control+Alt+Command+M: Launch application M
  • Control+Alt+Command+T: Launch application T
  • Control+Alt+Command+: Launch application W

With the WhiteFox having no function row, my layout may need to change, but that’s not something I will worry about until I get my hands on that keyboard.

Stay tuned.

The Perfect Paper

The Perfect Paper

As my fountain pen hobby has grown, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect paper. I’ve tried 2 A4 notepads, 1 A4 loose leaf pack, and 8 A5 notebooks.

At first, I tried a cream A4 loose leaf Tomoé River set and quickly followed it up with Clairefontaine Triomphe A4 notepad. The former was so thin that it couldn’t stand up to a wax seal. The latter was capable of handling a seal, but it surprisingly didn’t feel as smooth as the former.

After experiencing the A4 paper, I ventured into notebooks. I favored A5 size. I started with Clairefontaine. The paper was just like the Triomphe A4 notepad only lined and clothbound. I quickly realized that it was not easy to write in this notebook because it didn’t lay completely flat. Before attempting to fix that issue, I tried an Apica CD Premium, but the pages weren’t truly white as advertised, and it also suffered from the same issue with laying flat as the Clairefontaine. I did try a Goulet Pens A5 notebook, which is slightly thicker Tomoé River paper, but it didn’t lay flat either.

So, I tried wirebound solutions. I tried Clairefontaine side bound as well as Maruman Mnemosyne. I liked how these laid completely flat, but the side binding was an issue when I tried to write on the posterior side of the paper being that I am right handed. As a result, I ventured into top bound solutions from Clairefontaine and Rhodia. I even tried a top staple bound Rhodia notebook. The paper between the two brands is near indistinguishable, and I know Rhodia uses Clairefontaine paper in the Webnote, so it makes sense to me that they probably use the same paper in their other products. But the Rhodia seems less glossy—though this point may be my mind playing tricks on me.

At this stage, I picked up a white A4 Tomoé River notepad. I feel that it is the best paper overall, but I’m going to stick with the Rhodia No. 16 Top Wirebound Notebook for my notes. If I can get Tomoé River paper in a notebook that is top wire bound, I’d do it—I just haven’t found it yet!


The Perfect Red

The Perfect Red

As my fountain pen hobby has taken hold in the last 6 months, I went on a quest to find the ideal, nay—the perfect red. And I found it.

Thanks to Goulet Pens samples, I was able to try about 10 red inks.


As you can see in the image above, I tested the following:

  • Diamine Oxblood
  • Diamine Poppy Red
  • Diamine Wild Strawberry
  • Diamine Matador
  • Diamine Red Dragon
  • Monteverde Ruby
  • Monteverde Valentine Red
  • Waterman Audacious Red
  • Sheaffer Skrip Red
  • Noodler’s Red

My first favorite was the last one I tested—Noodler’s Red. Everything else was too pink or too orange for my liking. My second favorite was Red Dragon as it was simply stunning and elegant but not what I was looking for in my choice of red ink. I really wanted to go with Ruby or Valentine Red since I really love Monteverde’s Horizon Blue and Yosemite Green, but they just weren’t to my liking. Noodler’s Red is true red to my eye, and I really like it.

Now, if you haven’t checked out Goulet Pen’s ink samples, do check it out!


More on Fountain Pens

Since my last post on fountain pens, I have made a few more acquisitions.

I have my Sheaffer Prelude. But I have switched from the Sheaffer Skrip Turquoise ink for Monteverde Horizon Blue. In my wife’s opinion, the turquoise was girly, so I switched to something more manly. And the Horizon Blue is a nice bolder and darker blue. It will be my blue choice for life.

I picked up a Lamy Studio Imperial Blue in a medium nib. I sent it back. The chrome grip was slippery, making it hard to write.

I replaced the Lamy with a Monteverde Invincia Deluxe, which is made of carbon fiber and metal. It’s nice and heavy. However, the fine nib is scratchy. My cheaper Sheaffer is more smooth! So, it’s disappointing.

I paired up this pen with Diamine Oxblood dark red ink, which looks like dried blood! It’s a bit too dark—nearly brown—so I will switch eventually to Sheaffer Skrip Red or maybe Diamine Poppy Red. I’ll have to get samples and make a choice.

I picked up a Pilot Metropolitan Silver Plain with medium nib. I heard that Pilot nibs tend to run a size small, and I like a fine nib, so I went medium—and it was the right choice. This pen is light but very smooth. It was cheaper than both of my other pens and it is providing the best writing experience to boot!

I paired up the Metropolitan with Monteverde Yosemite Green ink. It’s beautiful! This ink will be my green choice for life.

I decided to get a white pen to pair with my Lamy Black ink. I purchased the Jinhao 321 but it won’t be here for some time. It was super cheap. Less than $5 on Amazon new. So far, my cheaper pens are my best and smoothest ones, so I am willing to try this one out. Besides, there is not a great selection of attractive and affordable white fountain pens, so I had limited options.

I’ve also picked up Clairefontaine Triomphe A4 notepad in white. It’s super smooth paper and thick enough not to rip. But I also picked up matching envelopes, so I don’t have to worry about the wax seal ripping the letter. Writing on it is a fantastic experience!

In addition, I picked up a Clairefontaine A5 notebook. Same kind of experience in a journal form as the A4 notepad. But it lacks page numbers. So far, I’ve only written in it with my Monteverde pen, and it seems a bit scratchy. That may be the nib of the pen though, and it can also be that the notebook doesn’t lay flat, so the curves of the paper may be impacting the writing experience.

So, you live, you learn. More expensive pens aren’t necessarily better. Sample ink before getting a bottle. Page numbers and lay-flat are important notebook features.

Depending on how the Jinhao works out, I may stick to Pilot fountain pens from here on out. I hear they are not only smooth but also consistent. Some potential options may be:

As far as paper is concerned, I plan to try out these:

What about you? Have you decided to try out a fountain pen and paper combo?


Be careful when purchasing Xbox gift cards—don’t email—@xboxsupport

Be careful when purchasing Xbox gift cards—don’t email—@xboxsupport

In short, I’ve learned to look for “digital code” or “digital download” rather than looking for an emailed code. Here’s why:

For Christmas this year I had received a Vanilla Visa Gift Card.

What I wanted was an Xbox Gift Card.

Today, I went to Microsoft Store to use the Visa Gift Card to purchase an Xbox Gift Card.


I searched the store for “$50 xbox gift card” and found an Email a Gift Card option. I followed the link, made the purchase, and waited for my emailed code. Instead, all I received was the confirmation email that the purchase had been made.


After waiting a few minutes and not receiving the code via email, I grew impatient and went to the support page. The contact us window reported 1800 minutes until I could speak to someone (that’s 30 hours). It said I would be about 220 in queue via chat, so I selected that option. I waited and waited. It froze at 87 and staid there for about 40 minutes. At that point, I tweeted Xbox Support and never heard back.

I then called to speak to someone and only had to wait about 5 minutes. But she couldn’t help me because I had not received an order number in the confirmation email. So, she transferred me to “billing” who then told me after another 5 minute wait that she could not refund me. I asked her to honor the email that I did receive, which stated that a refund was possible. She also confirmed for me that the email was sent to the correct address, but I had to insist that I never received it. She told me she would ask her supervisor if they could refund it but she suggested it would not be possible (under-promise). She put me on hold for about 3 minutes to come back and report that the supervisor did refund me (over-deliver).

Now I must wait 3-5 business days for the funds to be returned to my Visa Gift Card.

I should have been more careful to select a digital download option on the Microsoft Store site, but Microsoft failed me in that the email should have gone out and I did not receive it. Never again.




Beginner’s Guide to Fountain Pens | The Art of Manliness

Excellent article about fountain pens from Art of Manliness.

Check it out!


The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword

The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword

The pen—do you give much thought to it? You might want to if you haven’t already, because it is mightier than the sword, and that’s saying a lot!

I switched from the standard ball-points, gels, and the like about 6 years ago when I bought my fountain pen.

by Sheaffer
by Sheaffer

To go with it, I picked up some résumé paper and a red flexible-for-mailing sealing wax and a seal stamp. For these latter materials, I purchased them from Nostalgic Impressions, whom I would highly recommend.

I love this pen. It is smooth. Writing with it is easy on the hand. It is tough. It’s 6 years old and still kicking.

I just used up the blank ink above, and I decided to jump into different colors. My favorite color is blue, but more precisely it is turquoise. So, I picked up a Sheaffer Skrip bottle from Goulet Pens in this color.

I love this new ink. It is vibrant. It is bright. It reflects me and my tastes.

I tried a new sealing wax to match it in color, and I do not like it. If you ask me, avoid any sealing wax that does not have its own wick for the occasional seal. You don’t want to burn through your butane lighters trying to melt the wax to seal your letters. If it has a wick, simply light it and then let it melt away like a candle—but faster—and then blow it out when you have enough melted wax. I think I’ll switch to this one from Nostalgic Impressions.

I tried a new paper as well. It’s really thin and remarkably smooth but it rips easily with the wax seal as it bonds so well that you can’t open the letter without a massive and destructive tear without a letter opener. If you don’t plan your margins correctly, words will be lost when opening it up.

So, I am in the market for some paper solutions. I’m entertaining the idea of getting custom pressed prints but maybe some 100% cotton 36lb weight paper will do (the résumé paper was decent but it left me wanting more). I may go with this small note stationary and envelope set from Crane or this 100% cotton paper from Original Crown Mill.

In any case, put some thought into your pen. Write a letter to someone. They’ll enjoy opening and reading it it almost as much as you did writing and sealing it.




Best of 2016: A metal playlist

To put it bluntly, 2016 has been prolific in the metal genre of my liking, metal core, Swedish metal, prog metal, thrash metal, and more.

Here’s a playlist that I put together in Apple Music to capture my favorites. (As 2016 is not yet over, this list will be updated over the next 2 months as additional albums release.)

  1. Luminesce, by Erra
  2. Last Light, by Bury Tomorrow
  3. Alone I Stand, by Killswitch Engage
  4. Face for Lust, by Aliases
  5. Crusader, by Affiance
  6. Dreamcatcher, by Shoot the Girl First
  7. Made This Way, by The Word Alive
  8. Breathe Again, by When Our Time Comes
  9. First Father, by Silent Planet
  10. Waste Away, by SECRETS
  11. Blind Side, by Skyharbor
  12. COMA, by Issues
  13. Break, by I See Stars
  14. 570, by Motionless in White
  15. This Light I Hold, by Memphis May Fire
  16. Back Breaker, by Darkness Divided
  17. Faster, by Amaranthe
  18. Feels Good, by Volumes
  19. Crystalize, by Sonic Syndicate
  20. Zero, by Crown the Empire
  21. The Moment, by The Agonist
  22. Can We Give It All, by Imminence
  23. To the Key of Evergreen, by The Devil Wears Prada
  24. Silver Lining, by Glass Houses
  25. Blood in My Mouth, by The Amity Affliction
  26. Wasted Age, by We Came As Romans
  27. Open Door, by We Are the Catalyst
  28. The Crashing Waves, by Imminent Sonic Destruction
  29. The Bazaar, by Painted In Exile
  30. Forever United, by Your Memorial
  31. Dead Memory, by Fit for a King
  32. My Doom, by Any Given Day
  33. Natural Order, by Everyone Dies in Utah
  34. Exile, by Seraphim
  35. Entity, by Light the Fire
  36. Flatline, by Periphery
  37. Hybris, by Deadlock
  38. Hologram, by Northlane & In Hearts Wake
  39. The House of Shame, by Lacuna Coil
  40. Sorrowpsalm, by Black Crown Initiate
  41. Cognitive Computations, by Allegaeon
  42. Mind Mutation, by Solution .45
  43. Fake, by Make Them Suffer
  44. Jagged Cross Legions, by Serpentine Dominion
  45. Stars Abound, by Auras
  46. Nexus Point, by The Room Colored Charlatan
  47. Gone With the Wind, by Architects (UK)
  48. Lonesome Soul, by The Color Morale
  49. Hands of Gold, by Delain
  50. I Won’t Give In, by Asking Alexandria
  51. World on Fire, by Wovenwar
  52. Captive Conception, by Circle of Contempt
  53. The Grand Delusion, by Breakdown of Sanity
  54. Forever Lost in Van, by Soilwork
  55. Relentless, by Moments Till Fall

How to make your own subwoofer cable

If you find that you are in need of creating your own subwoofer cable, you can do it through Home Depot with a few items.

First, you need a compression tool. Check out this one from Klein.

Second, you need a RCA male connector. Home Depot only has one option, and here it is.

Third, you need wire. Here’s in-wall rated 14-gage in case you are routing the wire through your walls.

I found that I needed a solution when I had surround sound installed because the receiver end of the wire was not capped or terminated and I had no way to attach the wire to my receiver to utilize the subwoofer. The above tool and connector worked perfectly. Best Buy did not have any option for me, and the people at Home Depot did not know what to do. I had to figure it out on my own. Now, I hope you have an easy solution. Knowledge is power. Good luck!