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Introduction to Physics Computing Services

A summary of important notes about computing services in the Physics Department intended as a high-level introduction to new members of the department.

1 Physics Computing Services


1.1 PCS: Who are we?

Who are the members of Physics Computing Services?

  • PCS = Physics Computing Services
  • team of four
  • support administrative, research, and teaching related computing activities in the department
  • located on 8th floor (Rooms 805, 805A, 805B, 805C)
  • reach us at:

1.2 PCS Functions

  • computer hardware and peripherals
  • operatings systems
  • application software
  • network management – IP Addresses, Perimeter Firewall, VLANs, Private Networks (e.g. undergraduate labs)
  • network services : Email, Web
  • network hardware: switches

NOTE : Professors pay PCS for many of these services.

1.3 PCS Staff

1.3.1 Steven Butterworth

  • Manager
    • planning, advising, acquisitions
  • Linux/Unix guy
  • the Email guy
  • basic Python programming
  • commercial software (Matlab, IDL)

1.3.2 Greg Wu

  • Research Computing
  • Hardware consulting and acquisition
  • Linux/Unix Server and Desktop management
  • Linux/Unix software installation
    • pre-packaged
    • compilation of third-party scientific C/C++/Fortran code

1.3.3 Galina Velikova

  • Microsoft Windows OS and Applications Support
    • runs departmental Active Directories
  • Administrative, business operations support
  • some programming – mostly legacy application support

1.3.4 Iulian Comanean

  • MacOS X support
  • Information Management
    • departmental web site, web applications and databases
  • Python programming
  • Linux server support

2 Communication

2.1 Availability

PCS is available during work hours from approximately 7am to 5pm from Monday to Friday. At our discretion, we will answer emails outside of these hours.

We are not the Rogers Call Centre with 7x24 service. We do not have a Facebook page or a Twitter account.

2.1.1 DO

  • check the Physics website
  • contact the general IT help address:

2.1.2 DO NOT

  • send email to an individual PCS member (e.g. ) unless you are already in the middle of a conversation
  • call us late at night and ask us to get back to you

3 Information

3.1 Getting Important Information

  • use the search engine
  • use pages for:
    • account registration
    • computer registration
    • printing configuration
    • set up email reader programs

3.2 Your Information

  • should have basic contact info on Physics website
  • info may be wrong
  • info may change
  • Let us know (Please!!)

3.3 Keeping Information Up to Date

  • We have a departmental, web-accessible database
  • public data is reflected on web site
  • make sure your data is correct
    • tell us if it isn't

4 Core Resources

4.1 What do you get?

Every student is entitled to:

  • a Physics server account with a corresponding email address
  • registration of a computer on the Physics network

A Physics account gives you:

  • 10GB of storage – soon to increase substantially
  • a (primitive) web presence
  • an email address of the form::
  • access to some commercial science software:
    • Matlab (recent version)
    • Mathematica (only two simultaneous users)

4.1.1 Special Case

A few professors may actually request that you close your Physics account and use only your UTMail+ account.

4.2 Handling Physics Email

4.2.1 Forwarding Email to UTMail+

You already have a UTMail+ account, or very soon will. The University wants everyone to use the central system. Unless you have a compelling reason to do otherwise, I strongly recommend that you have your Physics email forwarded to your UTMail+ account, even though you will want to keep your Physics account for access to other resources.

To have your email forwarded, send a message to PCS and we will set it up.

4.2.2 Physics Webmail

We have a webmail service ( )

It works, but it isn't pretty. We do not suggest that you use it as your primary way of handling email. A full desktop client (e.g. Thunderbird, Apple Mail, Microsoft Outlook) is best. You may also want to set up an app on your phone.

4.2.3 Use a Full Email Desktop Client

PCS provides basic instructions for setting up:

  • Mozilla Thunderbird
  • Apple Mail
  • Microsoft Outlook

    (All of these documents tend to be a bit behind on versions, but should provide the necessary information.)

Core email configuration info is provided below.

4.3 Important Email Information

NOTE : Very recent versions of Outlook need some extra work to function with our Physics email system. We will provide instructions, but strongly suggest that Outlook users have their Physics email forwarded to the or account.

  • SMTP Server:
    • Port: 587 (may need 465 with older versions of Outlook)
    • Encryption: STARTTLS, TLS, SSL
  • IMAP Server:
    • Port: 143 (may need 993 with Outlook)
    • Encryption: STARTTLS, TLS, SSL
  • Why don't we use the standard names so that my device can auto-configure itself?
    • backwards compatibility for existing users
      • if you see something stupid in the IT world, backwards-compatibility is probably the reason

4.4 Core Resources: Registering for Accounts and Services

To register your computer with the Physics network, please visit our Registration Forms page.

You can also find the forms by doing a search for PCS Forms from the front page of our website.

4.5 Webmail

  • we have a webmail service for Physics and Atmospheric Physics

  • webmail is decent, but still recommend real email client like Thunderbird

Usernames might be fred and jen, with corresponding email addresses of:


dependent on which server you have your account on. (A small number of people will have accounts on both the main Physics server and on the Atmospheric Physics server.)

The Server setting defaults to the main physics server environment – Maildir IMAP Server – but you can also select the Atmospheric Physics server or one of a couple of other small group servers.

4.6 Core Resources: Printing

  • Physics printers:
    • ps1 - (MP 1002)
    • ps2 - (MP 058)
    • color1 (MP 202 - Library)
  • Atmosp printers
    • lp6 - (MP 622)
    • lpclr2 - (MP 622)
  • See Physics website for information on configuring your computer to access these printers

4.7 Core Resources: Wireless Network

4.8 Software

4.8.1 The Licensed Software Office

The most important software resource available at the University is the Licensed Software Office (LSO).

The LSO negotiates and administers software license agreements with many vendors in order to decrease overall software costs to the University. Software that will reside on computer hardware purchased with University or research funds can be purchased from the LSO. (The current standard way to purchase software is through the University's USource 1 portal.

4.8.2 The Microsoft Campus Agreement

Under the Microsoft Campus Agreement 2 , University units are eligible to download specific Microsoft applications at no charge for university-owned equipment. See the related FAQ 3 for important details.

The Microsoft Campus Agreement includes the following products:

  • Windows Desktop Operating System (not servers)
  • Microsoft Office Professional (Windows and Mac) – current edition + upgrades and past versions

Microsoft products not covered by the Microsoft Campus Agreement are distributed by Licensed Software Office.

5 Security Issues and Policy

5.1 Security Issues

  • many security failures over the years
    • many due to graduate students giving away passwords
    • possibly a couple of cases of travelling faculty and students having credentials sniffed
  • one student gave away credentials twice
    • PCS will never ask you to send your email and password via email
    • Email is not secure

5.2 Security Issues: Phishing

What is Phishing?

  • Phishing is attempting to acquire information (and sometimes, indirectly, money) such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

5.3 Security Issues: Phishing Examples

  • Phishers may occasionally ask for credentials directly

    This Email is from UTORONTO Customer Care and we are sending it to
    every UTORONTO Accounts Owner for safety. we are having
    congestion's due to the anonymous registration of web mail accounts
    so we are shutting down some Webmail accounts and your account was
    among those to be deleted.
    We are sending you this email so that ...  
    or your account will be suspended within 24 hours for security reasons.
    *Email Username :..............
    *Email Password :..............
    *Date of Birth :..................
    *Country or Territory: ........

5.4 Security Issues: Phishing Examples

  • More often, you are directed to visit a link or open a document and follow some directions.
After following the instructions in the sheet, your account will
not be interrupted and will continue as normal. Thanks for your
attention to this request. We apologize for any inconveniences.

Warning!!! Account owner that refuses to update his/her account 
after 48 Hours of receiving this warning will lose his or her 
account permanently.


5.5 Detecting Phishing

Fraudulent messages can be detected in many ways:

  • URLs outside the Physics or University Domains (e.g.
  • non-specific wording
    • Customer Care
    • Webmail Team
    • Physics.UToronto.CA Webmail Team
  • we only refer to our unit as Physics Computing Services
  • not signed by an individual
    • almost all PCS emails will be ``signed'' by one of:
      • Steven Butterworth
      • Iulian Comanean
      • Galina Velikova
      • Gregory Wu
  • Sometimes you must look at email headers

5.6 Detecting Phishing: Email Headers

The following message provides an example of raw header data. Of particular interest are the Received: lines as these provide the set of hosts through which the message has passed. The last one is of particular interest as it generally indicates the originating host. In this case, a message claiming to come from can be seen to originate in Taiwan (

Instructions for viewing this header information will be provided in another document on our website.

Return-Path: <>
Received: by (Postfix, from userid 57)
    id 39FB9140A07; Wed, 15 Jun 2011 12:51:22 -0400 (EDT)
Received: from ( [])
    by (Postfix) with ESMTP id D6C42140A05;
    Wed, 15 Jun 2011 12:51:21 -0400 (EDT)
Received: from (localhost [])
    by (Postfix) with ESMTP id 9A2A11655470;
    Wed, 15 Jun 2011 22:04:37 +0800 (CST)
From: "Utoronto Help Desk" <>
Subject: Site Maintenance
Date: Wed, 15 Jun 2011 22:04:37 +0800
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

5.7 Security Issues: Phishing Examples

The recipient is sent to a web page controlled by phisher. Note the inclusion of utoronto as the leading component in the link below. Since the owner of a domain can name there computers however they like, one could find mcgill, ubc and harvard as well, but all controlled by

Dear Webmail subscriber,

We hereby announce to you that your email account has exceeded its
storage limit. You will be unable to send and receive mails and
your email account will be deleted from our server. To avoid this
problem, you are advised to verify your email account by clicking
on the link below.

Thank you.
The Department of Physics at the University of Toronto

5.8 Security Policy


  • PCS will never ask you to send your email and password via email
  • Email is not secure

If we cannot find a secure mechanism for transferring information, we may arrange for a phone call.

6 Organizational Weirdness

6.1 Asymmetric Computer Management

  • Physics has a long-standing rift in computer management
  • two distinct organizational groupings:
    • Physics (Core)
    • Atmosp (Atmospheric Physics)
  • leads to some confusion
    • some differences in resource management
    • e.g. Atmosp has IDL software; Physics does not
    • Atmosp students frequently forced to drop Physics accounts in favour of Atmosp accounts
  • working to eliminate the remaining differences

7 Network Usage Rules and Guidelines

7.1 Appropriate Use Guidelines

  • University has rules about use of campus networks and computing resources
  • short version: respect others; don't abuse resources; DON'T BE A JERK
  • all normal laws apply (e.g. harrassment, threats, downloading unlicensed material)
  • avoid excessive downloading (even of legal material) - the network is a shared resource

7.2 Local Rules/Guidelines

  • turn off P2P file downloading services when on Physics network
  • all network devices using Physics network must be registered with PCS
    • computers, switches, routers, printers …
    • registration forms on web
  • notify PCS when planning to download more than 10GB in a day
    • helps us separate legitimate versus suspicious activity