Update: The Freedom Key

Howdy, something a little different for you today but I had to share this. As you may have read in previous posts I’ve been producing a podcast called the Software Freedom Law Show for the Software Freedom Law Center in New York. It’s been a lot of fun to work on and as a true audio geek I love making it sound as good as I possibly can but it inadvertently led to some interesting computer modifications for me this week. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

One morning I crawled out of my pit (bed) as usual and made my way downstairs to get some breakfast, on my way I passed the front door and saw some mail on the floor. One of the envelopes immediately caught my attention as it had been sent from Broadway, New York. Had I finally won that big part in Cats?? No sadly not but it in fact was a very nice thank you card from Bradley and Karen at the SFLC for helping them with their podcast. They also included a load of nice Free Software stickers such as a GNU, some SFLC and GPLv3 logos. I wasn’t expecting this so it was all a very nice surprise. I also noticed that included in the set were some small see-through stickers with the SFLC logo on them. The logo is a key from a computer keyboard with the letters “frdm” on it to represent freedom. This got me thinking, always a dangerous occurrence and soon the smoke was coming from my ears.

Regular readers will know that earlier in the year I bought a Dell M1330 laptop with Ubuntu pre-installed, it’s only ever had Linux or OpenSolaris (very briefly) installed on it and yet it still has a key on the keyboard proudly displaying the Windows logo (see pic to the right). All machines do these days it seems but this has never had Windows on it and it NEVER will. So how could I fix this? Looking at the SFLC logo it struck me that what I needed was a “frdm” key 😀 I already had the stickers so I set to work. If you want to do this yourself you’ll need the following:

– 1 see-through SFLC “frdm” sticker
– 1 standard hole punch so you can extract some of the off-cuts
– Some basic hand eye coordination (if I can do it you’re probably safe)

I realised that just placing the sticker over the key wouldn’t do the trick as it’s mostly transparent and that nasty Windows logo would still be visible. The solution came when I thought to use some of the waste paper out of my hole punch. The little paper circles it creates are the perfect size to obsure the Windows logo on my keys, jackpot. I simply placed a little paper circle on the key and positioned it just right, then I carefully attached the sticker over the top being sure not to move the paper. Et voila I now have a freedom key 🙂

(The freedom key – after shot)

A slightly pointless exercise I know but it makes me feel better and I think it looks pretty good so why not make your own freedom key? It’s easy and if I can do it with my complete abscence of art skills I’m sure anyone can.


  1. Dude!!! I want one as well! 😀

  2. 🙂 Nice one – makes an awful lot of sense!

  3. Thanks guys, I know other people have done the same in the past but the “frdm” bit made me chuckle 🙂

  4. the crunchbang linux guys call it the “super” key, a term i never heard of. maybe they should adopt this great frdm idea ^^

  5. You should let Dell know about it.

  6. @dhr Yeah I’ve heard a lot of people call it the super key, it’s quite common. I prefer frdm though hehe 🙂

    @hezy I will do but I doubt Dell would be interested it doesn’t look like their Ubuntu love is gonna last 🙁

  7. Just a circle? come one… we need a penguin.

  8. @Peter Yeah I know, it’s very small though and I don’t have the art skills required. If someone can make them then that would be great, I’d love that 🙂

  9. hey gang, the fine folks at ZaReason ship their boxes with an Ubuntu key. a small deed that shows big cluefulness!

  10. Wow that’s excellent, like you said a small gesture but it shows they get the philosophy. Off to check them out now and see if they sell in the UK.

  11. It kinda blends in with the other keys aswell! Great looking 😉
    Asus changed the winkey/super key/frdm key on their eee series with a home key, but it looks nasty on the black ones imho…

  12. @Doru That’s cool, I haven’t had much time to play with the eeePC yet and I don’t own one but they are cool little machines. My Linux Outlaws co-host Fab just bought one so I’m jealous 😉

  13. It’s not clear how the little MS Windows logo is built onto the key, but it’s likely that sugar will remove it. Yes, sugar. It turns out that sugar is harder than what’s typically used to print on plastic, but harder than the plastic itself. I’d recommend the following:

    Pop the key off the keyboard. Try rubbing some sugar on an inconspicuous place on the key to be sure it does not scratch. If the plastic passes the test, then just rub the printing on the key with sugar crystals. It will often take at least 10 minutes to see results, and then the remaining print will quickly erode. Use a soft cloth rather than, say, paper towels which are often harder than the plastic and will scratch it. You can then apply your sticker and replace the key.

  14. @Karl Interesting idea thanks, have you done this? I’m not sure when I’ll get time but I’ll keep this in mind for the future 🙂

  15. Andy's Blue Note World
    Andy's Blue Note World

    I also fed up with having function keys and no idea what they were or how to alocate them. I eventually plumped using kubuntu with having the f9-12 keys as dedicated for amarok, email, firefox, new open office doc and then scroll lock for the file manager ( in my case Konqueror) …I then ran some ologos onto some bigger stickers that would cover the keys just enough. They were cut out for me ( my scissors skills are nil)and then stuck on with a layer of clear varnish. Jobs a good un!

    Will have to do the saem now with the Kubuntu logo on the windows keys!

  16. @Andy Wow that sounds really nice, good work. Now get rid of that nasty windows key as well hehehe 😉

  17. GNU or the FSF should make little stickers available to cover up your Windows keys. I think it’s a great idea.

  18. GNU/FSF could do the GNU logo, the Linux foundation could do a Penguin logo and the distros could do their own like Ubuntu with it’s logo.

  19. They should, that’s a very good idea. I wonder why they don’t? Seems odd, I know other people have done this I’m not the first by any means

  20. Very nice touch sir 🙂

  21. @David Thanks that’s very kind 🙂

  22. Great idea Dan. I did the same with a jpeg of tux, bland labelsk, and a hole punch.

  23. @John A picture of Tux hey, you’re clearly more creative than me. Nice work 🙂

  24. If someone wants to leave a suggestion w/ the FSF about adding transparent ‘frdm’ or other similar stickers,
    this is the address they use for people who want to send in ideas for logos for their schwag:

    and this is one is their info email on their order page:

    I have a multilingual keyboard full of letter taped (im the guy praying that someone comes out with an Optimus Maximus clone that you dont have to get a loan for) so the Win keyboard has been covered for quite some time but i will definitely add the four letters to it.
    But I’d love an elegant solution for the Dell netbook so see if you can mention it to your lawyer buddies.


  25. @papa chango It would be great to see someone like Dell do this to their machines but I can’t see it happening to be honest. They’d probably see it as an extra expense they could do without. Maybe if we could prove it would win them favour with Linux fans and sell more computers we’d get somewhere. I don’t think I really have enough clout to influence them at all but as you said maybe I know someone who does. I’ll do my best

  26. […] didn’t work.This is part of my keys file (~/.pekwm/keys). Mod1 refers to alt and Mod4 to freedom key. There is a lot pre configured keybindings and making your own isn’t difficult after you […]

  27. Wow. Really? You guys are so arrogant that you had to get rid of the “windows” Key? Was it hurting your eyes THAT much? Jesus effing Christ, get over yourselves. I have Linux (dual booting with windows 7, because its just better) and i feel no desire to do this.

    PS the circle looks fucking stupid.

    • @Kam – Nice flame bait on a 2+ year old article. Your email address contains the words “cam is god” and I’m the arrogant one? Right. You also appear to have suffered a sense of humour bypass, for which you have my condolences. Don’t take everything so seriously and chill out man.

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