Running Dell OMSA 6.3 under Debian Lenny

Earlier this year Dell finally announced a version of their OpenManage Server Administrator suite for Ubuntu systems. This means that there's now an officially-maintained version of OMSA compiled and packaged for a Debian-like system. There are two main limitations with the current release, as it relates to Debian: 1) It's compiled for Ubuntu 9.10, which while pretty similar to Debian Lenny, does introduce some problems when trying to install these packages on Debian; and 2) Only amd64 packages were released.
Below are instructions for getting these packages to run under a Debian Lenny i386 system that is using an x86_64 kernel (if your Dell system doesn't support a 64-bit kernel then you won't be able to run these OMSA packages). Unfortunately the packages have a few dependencies on libraries that only exist in Debian Squeeze and not in Debian Lenny. Rather than doing lots of backporting, the easiest solution is to create a Squeeze chroot and run OMSA from there.

T-Mobile and +800 Numbers

I tried calling Cathay Pacific's eService Center Hotline at +800 2747-2200 from my T-Mobile cell phone today (while I was in the U.S.). If that number looks strange to you, it's what's called a Universal International Freephone Number (UIFN) (the ITU has more official information about UIFNs). Basically, a UIFN works like a 1-800 phone number in the United States except that it is international. The "800" part of the number is, for most intents, identical to the country code in a normal international phone number. That means that you can call a +800 number from anywhere in the world and it will be a free phone call (for you, the recipient of the call still pays of course).

That's the theory at least. In practice, when I call that number from my cell phone I get a message stating "This service is restricted or unavailable. Please contact customer care." So I called up T-Mobile. I spent an hour on the phone being transferred to various support representatives who didn't know what I was talking nor what they were talking about. Not only did I have to explain to each rep what a +800 number was, and that it was not a 1-800 number that I happened to write down incorrectly, but also various basics of international phone number dialing, e.g. that "011" and "+" are equivalent dialing prefixes in the U.S., that I really shouldn't have to explain to a support person from a phone company. What's worse, the database of country codes that the T-Mobile support reps use internally doesn't even list 800 as a known country code.

In the end, I finally got someone who explained to me that that message is the same one that you receive if you try to dial a 1-900 number from your cell phone (T-Mobile blocks 1-900 numbers from cell phones). Thus, I was told, T-Mobile blocks +800 numbers and there's no way around it. This at least was a sensible explanation of the problem I was seeing. I tried to probe deeper about why T-Mobile would feel the need to block +800 numbers, but all I got was some uninformed rambling about T-Mobile wanting me to pay for my phone calls rather than go around them and get calls for free. When I asked how this was different from 1-800 numbers, which are not blocked by T-Mobile, the support person fell into an incomprehensible babble. At that point I gave up playing the "transfer me to your supervisor" game and resigned myself to the fact that I'd never be able to dial a +800 number from my cell phone.

Running Windows Production Activation

If you dismissed the Activation dialog box after installing Windows, but now want to go through activation without waiting for the dialog box to nag you again, just run "oobe/msoobe /a" via "Start -> Run".

Nexus One hardware key shortcuts

I couldn't find these listed online anywhere, so here they are for reference:
  • Reboot: <Power>-<Volume Down>-<Trackball>
  • Boot into bootloader: Hold down <Trackball> while powering up/rebooting.

Getting GNOME to recognize your Nexus One as a portable music player

Programs like Banshee and Rhythmbox will automatically recognize when a portable music player (e.g. an iPod, a cell phone that can play music, or one of the many flash-memory music players) is plugged into the computer and let you manage the music on the portable device and synchronize it with your local music library.

On Linux, all of this magic happens via HAL. Specifically, the file /usr/share/hal/fdi/information/10freedesktop/10-usb-music-players.fdi (on Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic) contains the rules to recognize portable music players and define their capabilities. Since the Nexus One is quite recent, it's not listed in that file.