Playing a Sound on Headless Server Boot

· by Victor Mendonça · Read in about 3 min · (480 words) ·

Beep is a versatile utility that transforms your computer speaker into a musical instrument reminiscent of early Nintendo-style sounds. You provide a frequency and length and beep will play the respective sound.

I started using beep in the early 2000s with Smoothwall (think of a Linux predecessor to pfSense) to notify me when it had rebooted. That is still my main use for the utility (less the Smoothwall part), but it can be used for many other things.

We’ll go through a quick setup on Ubuntu using group permission, but you can refer to the main GitHub repo (Permission setup for beep) for alternative setup instructions if you need something different.


Let’s start by installing beep:

sudo apt update && sudo apt install beep

Now create the beep system group. Any user member of this group will be able to run beep:

sudo addgroup --system beep

Add it as a secondary group for your user:

sudo usermod [user] -a -G beep

Create the udev rule to allow the group permission to the speaker:


# Add write access to the PC speaker for the "beep" group
ACTION=="add", SUBSYSTEM=="input", ATTRS{name}=="PC Speaker", ENV{DEVNAME}!="", GROUP="beep", MODE="0620"

Comment out the existing blacklist for ‘pcspkr’ in /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf:

# ugly and loud noise, getting on everyone's nerves; this should be done by a
# nice pulseaudio bing (Ubuntu: #77010)
# blacklist pcspkr

Load the module:

sudo modprobe pcspkr

Now let’s test to make sure that it works. You will need to logout and log back in, or simply ssh to your localhost (this is so the secondary group is loaded). And then run beep with the options below:

beep -f 587 -l 714

If that works then we have confirmed that we configured everything correctly. Just a reminder, your computer needs to have a speaker otherwise beep wont work.

Now let’s create a sample script and the Systemd unit file for the service that will play beep after boot.

Create the following script and give it execute permission:


beep -f 587 -l 714
beep -f 784 -l 238
beep -f 1046 -l 1428
beep -f 987 -l 476
beep -f 784 -l 357
beep -f 659 -l 357
beep -f 880 -l 357
beep -f 1174 -l 952
sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/

Create /lib/systemd/system/beep-startup.service with the following content. Note that you will need to change the User= property to be the username for your user:

# /lib/systemd/system/beep-startup.service
Description=Plays startup audio



Let’s enable and start the service, and it should play the Star Trek intro sound:

systemctl enable --now beep-startup.service


With these configurations, your machine will serenade you with the iconic Star Trek intro sound after establishing a network connection during boot. Dive into the world of beep, and if you’re looking for more scripts, explore GitHub - victorbrca/beep-scripts for an extensive collection. Happy beeping!

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