Enabling system beeps on Ubuntu Lucid (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Sun, 13 Jun 2010

Enabling system beeps on Ubuntu Lucid

Update: though the rest of this article is still useful in explaining how to un-blacklist the pcspkr module, unfortunately that module works very erratically. Sometimes you'll get a beep, sometimes not. So this article may be a good start but it still doesn't explain why Ubuntu's kernels have such a flaky pcspkr module.

For years I've used Ubuntu with my own kernels rather than the kernels Ubuntu provides. I have several reasons: home-built kernels boot a lot faster (when I say a lot, I mean like saving 30 seconds off a one-minute boot) and offer more control over options. But a minor reason is that Ubuntu kernels generally don't support the system beep, so for example there's no way to tell in vim when you get out of insert mode. (In the past I've sometimes used the excellent fancy beeper module to play sounds, but I don't always want that.)

On Ubuntu's latest "Lucid Lynx", I'm using their kernel (so far). The Ubuntu kernel team has made huge improvements in boot time and number of modules loaded, so it's much more efficient than past kernels. But it did leave me without a beeper.

modprobe pcspkr failed to do anything except print the enigmatic:

WARNING: All config files need .conf: /etc/modprobe.d/00local, it will be ignored in a future release.
modprobe -v pcspkr (verbose) was no help -- it printed install /bin/true which didn't make anything clearer.

To get my beep back, I had to do two things:

First, edit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf and comment out the line blacklisting pcspeakr. It looks like this:

# ugly and loud noise, getting on everyone's nerves; this should be done by a
# nice pulseaudio bing (Ubuntu: #77010)
blacklist pcspkr
(They don't seem to be concerned about anyone who doesn't run Pulse, or about the various other bugs involved -- there's quite a laundry list in bug 486154.)

Secomd. pcspkr was blacklisted a second time in a different way, in that file so confusingly alluded to by the warning. /etc/modprobe.d/00local was apparently left over from a previous version of Ubuntu, and never removed by any upgrade script, and consisted of this:

install pcspkr /bin/true

Aha! So that's why modprobe -v pcspkr printed install /bin/true -- because that's all it was doing instead of loading the module like I'd asked.

So rm /etc/modprobe.d/00local was the second step, and once I'd done that, modprobe pcspkr loaded the module and gave me my system beep.

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[ 14:02 Jun 13, 2010    More linux/kernel | permalink to this entry | ]

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