Group-data server hardware maintenance.

Update 18:15 group-data is back!

Planned maintenance will be taking place on our group-data.phys.ethz.ch server on Friday, June 19, starting at 17:00. The service will be down for approximately 2 hours. We will be replacing the network interface card to improve service stability.

All group shares will be affected except IPA, IGP and Galaxy.

For emergency cases, there will be read-only access to last night’s backup as described here.

New D-PHYS collaboration/chat service (Slack replacement)

Now that we’re all forced to work from home, one of the biggest challenges is effective communication. Some of you might have heard about Slack, a popular proprietary collaboration/chat solution for group communication. At ISG, we have worked on a D-PHYS-hosted alternative for quite some time, and have now redoubled all efforts to get it out to you as soon as possible. Today we’re launching our Matrix homeserver and Riot chat client to all D-PHYS employees and students. In contrast to Slack, which is a proprietary communication silo that holds your chat history hostage, Matrix is an open source project that publishes the Matrix open standard for secure, decentralized, real-time communication (chat, VoIP, AR/VR, IoT). All parts of your communication (chats, uploaded documents etc) will be hosted at D-PHYS allowing data self-sovereignty (making it compatible with ETH regulations).

If you’re interested to use this service to communicate and collaborate in your group or with us, please see this readme page.

Please note that we’re starting with a basic set of functionality (group and direct chats, image upload). Internally we’ve already tested features like video calling and custom bots which will be rolled out incrementally in the coming weeks.

Informatikdienste will soon announce the availability of Microsoft Teams, which tries to achieve the same goal but which we neither recommend nor support in D-PHYS.

Corona and ISG

ISG is working from home. We will not be able to pick up the phone. If you have any helpdesk request, please use isg@phys.ethz.ch

As ETH and D-PHYS are working hard on every level to prepare for all conceivable situations related to Covid-19, also here at ISG we are trying to deal with the situation as it evolves. Some information from our side:

  • we’re currently dealing with a great number of requests. Please bear with us if reaction time is somewhat longer than usual
  • please always send requests to isg@phys.ethz.ch and not to individual people (fun fact: this also applies in non-Corona times!)
  • we have created a readme page that helps you prepare for home office
  • there is a D-PHYS internal wiki for easy sharing of information
  • please don’t take your managed Windows or Linux workstation home. It won’t work.
  • if you feel that you need some IT assistance or major changes to your setup, please get in touch with us at an early stage
  • we have taken precautions to be able to maintain D-PHYS IT Services and ISG Helpdesk even if we were being requested to stay home

new ISG staff member

It is my pleasure to welcome Maciej Bonin into our group. He joins us to replace Patrick Schmid in the Linux team.

Welcome Maciej!

Migration of Dynamic DNS

Some of you make use of our DynDNS infrastructure that automatically assigns hostnames to computers with a dynamic IP address. This feature enables you to connect to your computer using its sent hostname, followed by the dhcp.phys.ethz.ch domain (eg example.dhcp.phys.ethz.ch) instead of the ever-changing dynamic IP address.

Thursday morning

Jan 30 2020 between 9:00 and 11:00

we will be migrating our DynDNS service to the servers of central Informatikdienste. As a consequence the resolution of example.dhcp.phys.ethz.ch to its dynamic IP address may not always work during that time. The global phys.ethz.ch and ethz.ch domains are not affected. Therefore the bulk of our users will not even notice the migration.

Update: Informatikdienste have postponed the migration from 23rd to 30th January.

2019 in review

This post is meant to give you a short overview of what has been accomplished in D-PHYS IT by ISG this year. We’ve been hard at work to further improve and extend our services for you, our customers. Some highlights of 2019:

  • Ansible deployment: while we had already started to deploy servers using ansible as early as 2015, it was in 2019 that we consolidated and migrated almost all server configuration to this system and now have a common base for the D-PHYS server infrastructure.
  • Storage server separation: in the past years a constant growth in both volume and bandwidth of our SAN storage system caused occasional performance issues for some users. To alleviate this, we split our single SAN frontend file server into 4 individual machines (D-PHYS general, IPA, IGP and galaxy) in order to distribute the load.
  • New web server: at the end of 2018 we purchased a new D-PHYS web server to replace the previous 10-year-old system. In 2019 we devised a completely new and upgraded web server setup on this new machine and migrated all D-PHYS hosted web shares to the new system. If you are the owner of one of our web shares, please make sure to read the updated documentation for things that have changed.
  • Network migration: the extensive Hönggerberg network reorganization we reported last year is even more complex than we initially thought, so there’s no end-user-tangible progress this year – which doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot of behind-the-scenes work.
  • Storage: in 2019 the disk space occupied by data and backup grew from 2.1 PiB to 2.7 PiB, continuing the obvious trend of ever-growing data. The end of 2019 also saw a substantial expansion of the available disk capacity.
  • Clusters: we inherited two HPC clusters from CSCS that we’re now running locally.
  • InfluxDB / Grafana: we included this popular time-series database / visualization combination into our service catalog.
  • Outages: apart from a pre-announced migration window and some short-term network interruptions, our systems have been very stable in 2019.
  • OS upgrades: The Windows team was active in getting rid of the remaining Windows 7 machines and upgrading Windows 10 to the 1809 build, while on the Linux side workstations were upgraded to Ubuntu 18.04 and a first batch of servers to Debian buster.
  • Software upgrades: the FileMaker server has been upgraded.
  • UCC: the UCC project of Informatikdienste was stopped due to nonfulfillment of the technical requirements and all deployed services and devices have been rolled back. The whole project will be reevaluated from scratch.
  • IT security: we participate in and support the ETH-wide IT security initiative.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my whole team for their hard and dedicated work all year long.

Happy Holidays and see you in 2020!

Revised Adobe license at ETH

Adobe has forced ETH to move from impersonal serial numbers to Adobe Cloud accounts, linked to your full name and personal @ethz.ch email address. All previous installations will stop working after November 30th 2019. ETH encourages users to switch to one of the many alternatives to Adobe software. You may also consider using the free Adobe Reader to open PDFs, as many don’t need the features of the paid Acrobat Pro. If you really need to keep using Adobe software, you have to migrate to the new personalized license. The detailed usage conditions and disclaimer regarding the Adobe Cloud will be visible when ordering the software in the IT Shop.

Unfortunately the central IT services only provided the new installers two days ago, meaning that everyone is forced to have migrated within 5 weeks. We tested the Windows and macOS installers and explain the activation and installation of Adobe programs in our readme.

Impact on managed workstations

The change in the Adobe licensing also affects our ISG D-PHYS managed computers. Given that all Adobe licenses must now be personal, we can no longer order the licenses for you. This, in turn, implies that we must exclude all Adobe software from our yearly software license accounting. Starting with the current 2019/2020 period, we will not charge you for Adobe products, as you will have to pay them directly yourself while ordering from the IT Shop.

All managed Windows and macOS computers will be migrated to the new Adobe Creative Cloud on

Wednesday, November 20th

In case you need to keep using Adobe software, we advise you to already order the license from the IT Shop. Starting on November 20th, you will need to log in with your personal Adobe account and install the programs, as explained in our readme. Feel free to get in touch with us, if you want us to migrate your computer before that date.

Phishing and malware emails

In light of the recent surge of malware waves, we have decided to quarantine all incoming emails containing Microsoft Office documents with macros enabled – actually, we have been doing so for a week already. Unfortunately way too many of you still open those documents and risk (or succeed in) infecting your computer. Emails containing such dangerous documents will be quarantined and are never shown to the user. Emails with static office documents (no macros) will be delivered unaffected. We’re aware of the fact that this policy might create the occasional false positive, but the benefits for all of D-PHYS far outweigh the downside and real use cases for macro documents via email are in fact very rare. In the 8 days of operation so far, we’ve detected ~850 infected office documents and only 1 false positive. Quarantined emails will be deleted after 30 days, so you have ample time to contact us in case a valid document gets flagged by accident.

Please get in contact if you have any questions.

Groupware upgrade

Update 08:00: Migration completed. Please note that a legacy CalDAV URL has changed – if you’re using a CalDAV client (for example Thunderbird or Apple Calendar), make sure you have the correct URL according to the documentation

For our calendar solution groupware.phys we schedule a migration on Friday, September 27, starting at 07:30. The service will be down for approximately 1 hour. We will move the service to a new virtual machine and upgrade to a new version.

FileMaker Upgrade

We will upgrade our FileMaker server next Tuesday 3rd September 2019 between 20:00 and 22:00 o’clock. This will lead to a downtime of the services that depend on a FileMaker database, for instance experimente.phys.ethz.ch and lager.phys.ethz.ch.

The new FileMaker server will only work with FileMaker clients version 16 or newer. If you need to access a FileMaker database from your computer, we recommend you install the latest FileMaker 18 from the IT Shop. If you have a ISG-managed computer, we will take care of upgrading the FileMaker client.