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How to validate

Info

This tutorial works with current Alexander testnet and has been updated for PoC-4.

To be a good validator, you should

  • Have DOTs to stake (Basic Requirement)
  • Keep your node up to the latest version
  • Have enough knowledge of network security to create a robust network
  • Use HSM (Hardware Security Module) to protect your key (Highly Recommended)

You should NOT run a validator if you have DOTs, but you do not have enough technical knowledge to set up a validator. It is recommended to delegate/nominate your DOTs to someone you trust for helping you to do this kind of work.

As a nominator, you can still get the rewards by nominating multiple validators. If you want to know more about nominator, please see here.

For this tutorial, we use Ubuntu 18.04 and will be running on PoC-4 Alexander testnet. No matter what operating system you are using, setup should not be too much difference. There is a lot of VPS choice out there, feel free to pick one you like.

Attention

Please make sure that you do NOT use this setup & configuration on mainnet. This guide simply walks you through step-by-step how to set up & run a validator node. If you would like to run a validator seriously when mainnet is live, you have to be REALLY careful on some areas like key management, DDOS protection and high availability.

Install rust

curl https://sh.rustup.rs -sSf | sh
sudo apt install make clang pkg-config libssl-dev

This command will fetch the latest version of Rust and install it, then execute the second command to install the required software before installing Polkadot.

rustup update

If you have installed rust already, run this command to check whether there is a new version available.

Install polkadot PoC-4

Until support for the one-line installer is back up for PoC-4, you will need to build polkadot from source.

git clone https://github.com/paritytech/polkadot.git
# To update your node. Run from this step.
cd polkadot
cargo clean
git checkout v0.4
git pull origin v0.4
./scripts/init.sh
./scripts/build.sh
cargo install --path ./ --force

This may take a while depending on your hardware!

Synchronize chain data

After installing all related dependencies, you can start your Polkadot node. Start to synchronize the chain by executing the following command:

polkadot --chain alex

It should take at least a few hours.

You can check the current highest block via Telemetry or PolkadotJS Block Explorer

Create accounts

The first thing you will need to do is create three separate accounts for managing funds and operating the validator.

These three keys are:

  • Stash
  • Controller
  • Session (Must be ed25519)

If you would like to learn more about these three keys and why they are needed see here.

create account

On the Polkadot Dashboard to navigate to the account page and click the Create account tab.

To simplify everything and identify your accounts easily, it is recommended to use Stash, Controller and Session (or some variation like 1337_Stash, 1337_Controller, 1337_Session) to name your accounts.

For the stash and controller accounts, it is allowed to use the default sr25519 cryptography for key derivation. But, when you create the Session key make sure to choose instead the Edwards (ed25519) option as a Key pair crypto type in the Advanced creation options. Also make sure to select Raw seed and save it somewhere, since we will be using it later as a command line flag when we start the validating node.

For each account, input a password to encrypt the seed and click on Save.

backup seed

On the following screen, choose Create and backup account to store your JSON key file on your computer. Together with your password, this is a way to recover each account.

Follow these steps for all 3 accounts. At the end of this section you should have three fresh accounts.

Get testnet DOTs token

To continue the following steps, you will need to get some testnet DOTs for the Stash and Controller accounts in order to submit transactions and to stake. The Session account will not need any DOTs and it is recommended not to send any to it. Note that your accounts (Stash and Controller) need to have more than 100 mDOTs (i.e. 0.1 DOTs) as this is the minimum amount required for an account to exist. Having more allows you to pay for transactions fees.

To get testnet DOTs, you have a few options.

If the above two methods do not work then you may ask in the Polkadot Watercooler channel on Riot, paste your account address and ask for testnet DOTs. You can paste one account and transfer some of the DOTs received to the other account.

Bond DOTs

It is now time to setup our validator. We will do the following:

  • Bond the DOTs of the Stash account. These DOTs will be put at stake for the security of the network and can be slashed.
  • Select the Controller. This is the account that will decide when to start or stop validating.
  • Select the Session. This is the account whose seed will be used to run the node.

First, go to Staking page on the Polkadot Dashboard, you should see the accounts that you created earlier.

Select your Stash account, in our case it has, 200 mDOTs, and click on the Bond Funds button. We will bond 100 mDOTs.

dashboard bonding

  • Controller account - select the Controller account created earlier.
  • Value bonded - how many DOTs from the Stash account you want to bond/stake. You can't use all of it as you will need to pay for the transaction fees. You can top up this amount and bound more DOTs later, however withdrawing any bounded amount requires the bounding duration period to be over (600 blocks at the time of writing).
  • Payment destination - where the rewards get sent. More info here.

Once everything is filled properly, click Bond and sign the transaction (with your Stash account).

Setting session key

You should now see the Controller account has Set Session Key and Nominate options available.

dashboard validate

Select Set Session Key.

dashboard staking

Select the Session account created previously and click on Set Session Key.

Staking

You should see the Controller account has now Validate and Nominate options available. Click on Validate.

dashboard validate dashboard validate

  • Unstake threshold - how often you want to be reported offline (and slashed) before being removed from the validator set.
  • Payment preferences - rewards you will keep, the rest will be shared among you and your nominators.

Click Stake

Open your terminal, if your node is fully synchronized, run your validator with the seed from the Session account.

polkadot \
--chain alex \
--validator \
--key <SESSION_ACCOUNT_SEED> \
--name <VALIDATOR_NAME_ON_TELEMETRY> \
--telemetry-url ws://telemetry.polkadot.io:1024

Then go to Telemetry, after a few seconds, your node information will be shown.

telemetry monitor

Go to Staking apps, select the "Staking Overview" tab, and you should see the list of active validators that are currently running. At the top of the page, it shows how many validators slots are available and how many nodes are intending to be a validator.

staking queue

Your node will be shown on the next up queue. In the next era (up to 1 hour), if there is a slot available, your node will become an active validator.

Congratulations!

If you want to run your validator as a systemd process see the short guide here.

Notice: As mainnet get closer, you can expect more slots will be available for testing.

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