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In one of the descriptions it was mentioned that the homestead update contains a new opcode and other changes that are not backward compatible. Thus a hardfork will be required. What is a process of switching to the new consensus rules? Is it a given block or something dynamic (e.g. as soon as 75% of the miners are signaling support by some meta information in the block)

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Homestead will begin at block 1,150,000 which will happen at midday on pi day.

Switching to homestead can be done by updating your ethereum client to a version which contains the homestead changes.

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