Understandably, there is some apprehension among users of the Ethereum-Mist Wallet over the coming release of Homestead, the next major phase of the Ethereum project. The Ethereum network will move into the Homestead phase on March 14th., on the arrival of block number 1,150,000. (Check here for the current block.)
The official position taken by the Ethereum team, as expressed here, is that you must upgrade to the latest, Homestead-ready, version of the Wallet App, currently version 0.5.1 (Beta 9). But equally important, note the following question/comment in the same post:
Will I lose tokens if I don’t upgrade?
No. As long as you have the corresponding private keys, you can always access your accounts. The major risk in not upgrading is that you will be unable to connect to the network until you do.
So there is no need to be anxious. As a user of the Mist Wallet, you must upgrade only if you want to retain full functionality of the app, at all times, right through the Homestead launch. If you upgrade after March 14th., your ether, Accounts, and Contract Wallets will still appear in the new version.
How to Upgrade/Install Beta 9?
Whether you are upgrading from a previous version or doing a first-time installation of the Mist Wallet, just follow the instructions given for version 0.4.0 (Beta 7) . There is no difference in the upgrading/installation instructions between Beta 7 and Beta 9, except for the page where you will find the downloadable files of course.
How is Beta 9 Different?
Both version 0.5.0 (Beta 8) and its replacement, version 0.5.1 (Beta 9), are essentially bug-fix upgrades that also bundle the latest Homestead-ready Geth client. There is, however, one new feature: Ethereum addresses are now checksum enabled, as explained next.
Checksum Enabled Addresses
Typing in a long Ethereum address without any mistakes can be tough. Prior to Beta 9, there already were some security features to warn you that an address is either illegitimate or may be incorrect. Beta 9 adds an extra layer of security that makes it very, very difficult for you to enter an incorrect address by mistyping. This is possible through the use of checksum enabled addresses.
Note: You should in practice always copy and paste when you input an address, making the above security features much less necessary. But on those rare occasions when you are forced to type in an address, these features can prevent losses.
The address checksum scheme implemented in Beta 9 utilizes the fact that Ethereum addresses are in hexadecimal digits which are case insensitive. This means that the following three Ethereum addresses will be recognized as the same address by all Ethereum applications:
The first address format is probably the one you are most familiar with; all the letters are lower-case. In the second address all the letters are upper-case. Though this format is not used often, it is nonetheless, the same address as the first.
The third address has a combination of upper- and lower-case letters. While this is again the exact same address as the other two, in Beta 9, an address in this format has special meaning; it is a checksum enabled address. Notice that the addresses displayed in Beta 9 all look like this third address, having a mix of upper- and lower-case letters (with very, very rare exception).
Can you use an address you received from a friend that is NOT checksum enabled? Yes, of course, because the new checksum implementation is backwards-compatible. This means, old style, all lower-case or all upper-case addresses can still be used as before. Beta 9 will merely warn you that you are using an address with no checksum security.
Let’s see what happens when we input an address into the Send Funds page:
If you input a checksum enabled address without any typos, this is what you will see:
If you input an address into Beta 9 that is checksummed but has a typo:
If you input an address that is not checksum enabled:
Use the Beta 7 User Guide With Beta 9
Other than the checksummed addresses (and important bug fixes), Beta 9 is similar to Beta 7. So please use the guide for Beta 7 to get going with Beta 9.