Mailing list server upgrade

Our D-PHYS mailing lists will be offline for maintenance on Thursday 6th June from early morning to approximately 10h00. No emails to @lists.phys.ethz.ch addresses will be accepted during that downtime.

Under the hood, the mailing list software will be migrated from mailman2 to mailman3. After the migration, the web page lists.phys.ethz.ch will have a new look with a modern web interface. You will be able to see and manage all your mailing lists right from the landing page. But note that all other URLs will have a new structure, so any browser bookmarks to individual mailing list configurations or archives will need to be updated.

For users that only receive messages from these mailing lists, nothing should change.

When sending messages to our mailing lists, pay attention, already now, to always use the <somelist>@lists.phys.ethz.ch domain. The obsolete <somelist>@phys.ethz.ch alias exceptions will no longer be accepted after the migration.

Mailing list owners and moderators will be contacted in a separate email with additional information, right after the migration. In particular, the new system will have personal accounts for all users, so that passwords must no longer be shared among list administrators. Also note that any held messages pending for moderation will not be migrated. So please accept or discard moderation requests the day before the migration.

Further documentation is available in our readme.

New service: hosted password manager

TL;DR: we now offer a password manager service that also allows sharing passwords within groups.

Full story:
For a long time, we've been trying to promote IT security in general and secure password handling in particular. In both our introductory course and our documentation we recommend using a password manager to securely handle the plethora of passwords that modern-day life usually entails (hopefully a different one for each service!). What we did not have however was an easy-to-use solution to sync your password vault across your different devices. Yes, there's KeePassXC that can work with Polybox to ensure coherent password databases on all devices, but that's not exactly straightforward to set up.
In order to make setting up and handling the password manager easier for you, we're now announcing a new service: an Open Source password vault hosted at ISG D-PHYS:
Vaultwarden is an alternative implementation of the the Bitwarden backend and we've been evaluating it for a while. It now seems ready for prime time so after testing within ISG, we're releasing it to the Department. Aside from easier daily usage, it offers another feature that many (research) groups might find interesting: passwords and confidential information in general can be shared with others, e.g. the group's credit card with all PhD students.
If you'd like to give it a try, please read our service description to get started.

2023 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. Unfortunately, two of our colleagues had to take extended sick leaves this year, so we didn't have as much capacity for innovation and had to focus on system maintenance.

Some highlights of 2023:

  • Storage: in the first half of 2023, we performed a major overhaul on our storage and backup infrastructure in both hardware and software. The disk space occupied by data and backup grew from 4.8 PiB to 5.1 PiB.
  • Infrastructure work: our Ansible deployment setup was further extended and refined. All Windows servers have been added as well as the macOS clients.
    All eGroupware users were migrated to the new SOGo calendar. We also enabled DKIM signing on our D-PHYS mailserver. The Windows HyperV cluster has been upgraded for better performance.
  • Matrix/Element: We upgraded both the OS and the Matrix server software. This year we counted 748 active users on 2579 devices (1019 Windows, 517 Linux, 424 Mac, 619 Mobile), who sent 1'086'537 messages in 5'510 rooms created on our server. Our users also participated in 763 other rooms with 1'157'466 messages.
  • ISG lecture series: our Basics of Computing Environments for Scientists lecture series was held twice in 2023 with shockingly low attendance.
  • Outages: apart from some short-term network interruptions, our systems were pretty stable in 2023.
  • OS upgrades: work is well underway to migrate the managed Linux workstations from Ubuntu to Debian and the majority of servers are now running Debian bookworm. The Windows team started the Windows 11 rollout. Most of the managed Macs were upgraded to macOS Ventura.
  • Software upgrades: mostly incremental upgrades in our Windows and Linux software list this year.
  • IT security: with the world being what it is, IT security plays an ever increasing role in our work and permeates all our plans and projects. We also take part in the current rewrite of ETH's IT security regulations. On the Windows virus scanner front, Sophos was EOL'd and replaced by Windows Defender.

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 2024!

Changes in printing

Update 27.11.: We now have the migration dates and final printer list here

As you might have read elsewhere, ETH will consolidate its printer fleet for cost cutting reasons. Even though at D-PHYS we already have a very efficient printing landscape, ID will enforce a uniform 30% cut across the board. We have tried to limit the impact as much as possible and still ensure a fair and even printer distribution throughout D-PHYS, but the implications will be felt by everyone.

  • 30% of all existing printers in D-PHYS will be dismantled.
  • All remaining printers will be replaced with HP hardware.
  • All those will get new generic queue names (like p-hil-hp002) that bear no indication as to the printer's location in the building.
  • Everybody will have to reinstall all printers they'd like to use in the future.
    • on managed workstations we will prepare this as much as possible.
    • on self-managed machines you'll have to follow our instructions.
  • This might be the perfect opportunity to switch over to the universal card-ethz queue that will let you forget about queue names (you can do that already now).
  • We understand that for some of you this change will significantly affect your daily work. We urge you to PLEASE not try to solve the problem by buying your own printer. Instead, please get in touch with me (Christian Herzog) so that I can collect your complaints and forward them to the person responsible for this change.

The whole process is supposed to happen in December and will be rolled out building by building. We're posting this already now as individual printers in D-PHYS have already been replaced.

We will update this post with updates as they become available.

Apple built-in VPN will stop working at ETH

The central IT services will gradually disable the older IPSec protocol for ETH VPN:

  • 16th Nov 2023 for students (@student-net.ethz.ch realm)
  • 13th Dec 2023 for employees (@staff-net.ethz.ch realm)

Those of you who are already using the Cisco Secure Client for their VPN connections will not be affected by this change. Also the Linux openconnect client will continue to work.

However, any client relying on the IPSec protocol will become non-functional. In particular, the built-in VPN of Apple operating systems (macOS, iOS, iPadOS) will stop working. All affected users must migrate to the Cisco Secure Client in the upcoming weeks, to avoid any disruption of the VPN service.

For the actual installation, please refer to the VPN documentation of Informatikdienste, or our own readme for macOS.

Also note that, in the upcoming months, ETH will enable Multi-Factor-Authentication (MFA) for the VPN service. So all users will have to enter a one-time-password (OTP) when connecting the VPN. This is similar to the other services, mainly the cloud services of Microsoft, Adobe and Zoom, where MFA has already been enforced for ETH accounts. Further details regarding the VPN MFA migration will be announced as soon as the precise dates have been fixed.

Matrix (chat) server maintenance

All Matrix services will be offline for maintenance starting on Thursday 31th Aug 2023 in the morning around 06h00. Minimal downtime is 1h, but some bots/bridges may take longer.

The host system will be upgraded from Debian 10 to 12, followed by an upgrade of the database (PostgreSQL 11 to 15) and ~20 application servers.

Upgrade schedule:

phys.ethz.ch homeserver (people accounts)

First priority is the phys.ethz.ch homeserver hosting our accounts and rooms. Estimated (best case) downtime ~1h.

Your Matrix clients (Element) will show connectivity errors during the downtime:

Matrix homeserver offline

mbot.ethz.ch homeserver (bots, bridges)

Second priority is the mbot.ethz.ch homeserver, all bots, bridges present in the #mbot:phys.ethz.ch room and anything else. I expect most to be back after another few hours but Thursday evening at the latest.

The deprecated webhook bridge will be put out of service.

Not affected

The ETH homeservers staffchat.ethz.ch and studentchat.ethz.ch are not affected by this downtime.

Alternative: jitsi.phys.ethz.ch video conferencing with integrated chat.

home server maintenance

Scheduled maintenance will be taking place on our home.phys.ethz.ch file server on Wednesday, July 12, starting at 16:00. The service will be down for approximately 4 hours. We will be replacing the hardware with all-flash storage and upgrade the base system.

Update 18:15: the new home server is open for business. Most SMB + NFS clients will not have survived the 2h downtime and will have to be rebooted. We'll go through the most obvious ones, but if yours won't work, try restarting.

All home directories (Linux, Windows and Mac, SMB and NFS) will be unavailable during this time.

For emergency cases, you'll have read-only access to the backups as described here.

This migration will mark the end of the huge storage migration project of 2023. Thanks for your patience.

Migration to new calendar solution

It's time to say good bye to eGroupware and welcome to SOGo.
As we outlined in our previous posting, we will be switching to a new calendar solution.
We coordinated with those of you using group calendars and have migrated those already. Now it's time to move the individual personal calendars. This cannot be automated and will have to be performed by each user, but of course we're here to assist if needed.
To make the change as easy as possible for you, we have written a readme.
We ask you to complete the migration by the end of August, so that eGroupware can be decommisioned afterwards.
Thanks a lot.

group-data server maintenance

Scheduled maintenance will be taking place on our group-data.phys.ethz.ch server on Wednesday, June 7, starting at 16:00. The service will be down for approximately 4 hours. We will be replacing some hardware and upgrade the base system.

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

For emergency cases, you'll have read-only access to the backups as described here.

Sophos Antivirus nears end of life

This applies to all self-managed computers (servers, workstations and laptops) on which the product "Sophos Anti-Virus" from the IT store is installed.

"Sophos Anti-Virus" will become End of Life by the end of June 2023 and will be no longer supported by the vendor or ETH Zurich. After this date, there will be no updates and your machine will not be sufficiently protected any longer.

ETH Zurich recommends using the built-in antivirus solution of the respective operating system.

Detailed instructions for uninstalling Sophos Antivirus and activating the antivirus solutions of your operating system can be found in the following link in the IT Knowledgebase: Anti-Virus: Replacement of Sophos for Self-Managed Devices.

Users of managed Windows Computers by ISG can ignore this information because we will manage the transition from Sophos to MS Defender automatically.