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There are just about 57000 blocks left before we reach the Ethereum hardfork planned for block 1150000 when Ethereum will move to the next phase called Homestead. Do note that Homestead is the second major version release of the Ethereum platform, which includes several protocol changes and a networking change that requires the hardfork. The Ethereum clients with support for the Homestead are already available for download and it is recommended to upgrade any Ethereum nodes or local wallets if you are using such at this time in order to be ready for the hardfork.
The initial Go version of Ethereum (geth) for Homestead is release 1.3.4, but there is already 1.3.5 and the initial C++ version of Ethereum (eth) for Homestead is the version 1.2.0 with version 1.2.2 already available with some fixes. Do not wait for the last possible moment or after the 1150000th block is here in order to avoid any possible issues resulting from the hardfork. A large number of the Ethereum nodes have already been updated, but there are still some that are running older versions of the software that are not ready for the hardfork. Hopefully all of the Ethereum mining pools and the nodes running 24/7 on the network will be ready for the hardfork that should hit in a little over a week from now.
The Ethereum project has released an official update regarding the next phase called Homestead that will need a hardfork and that will take place at block 1150000 or roughly around Pi Day (March 14th). Homestead is the second major version release of the Ethereum platform, which includes several protocol changes and a networking change that requires the hardfork. This does not mean that Ethereum will be switching to PoS yet, Homestead will continue to rely only on PoW mining with Proof of Stake switch phase planned for a later time in the future. After the Homestead hardfork everything should continue to run normally as it is now.
The Go version of Ethereum (geth) for Homestead will be release 1.3.4 and includes the above mentioned changes to the protocol and network. Following the release of Homestead the Go team will also shortly come with the 1.4 release, which is our big feature release and includes months of work. The C++ version of Ethereum (eth) for Homestead will be version 1.2.0. Apart from the protocol and network changes, it also tries to be as compatible to geth as possible. So make sure you keep track of the development in the newt two weeks as you will have to upgrade your Ethereum client if you are running a local node or have a local wallet when the new versions with support for Homestead become available.
The cloud mining service provider Hashflare has officially announced their plans to start offering Ethereum cloud mining hashrate with pre-orders already active and mining expected to start on March 21st. The contracts are with 1 year term with everything included in the price of the hashrate, so no extra expenses for the user. The price is set at $4.25 USD per 100 KHS (0.1 MHS) or with other words $42.25 USD per Megahash worth of Ethereum mining hashrate. There is currently a promotional offer for pre-orders that will allow you to purchase hashrate at a discounted price of $3.74 USD per 100 KHS or $37.4 USD per MHS (12% discount for the pre-orders) if you use the following promotional code when checking out HF16ETHER12.
The service is already offering Bitcoin and Litecoin cloud mining hashrate contracts, though both are being paid to users in BTC. Their new Ethereum cloud mining offer is apparently based on what Genesis Mining is already offering, though Hashflare apparently wants to attract customers with a lower price. The problem is that they have announced their plans about 1 month prior to actually starting to mine Ethereum and for that 1 month a lot can change – much higher mining difficulty or significant drop in price etc. that makes this investment riskier. There is also no information what will happen with the purchased hashrate in case Ethereum switches to PoS before the end of the 1 year term of the contract. So be careful when weighting in the pros and cons of this offer.