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What is the command line command or RPC call for switching a Tezos node onto one of the protocol amendments being voted on?

During which phases is it possible to switch to a candidate protocol.

Is it possible to do it during the proposal period?

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When (if) we move into the "Testing period" the chain is automatically forked. No action required, except for bakers. Bakers need to fire up "test-bakers" for the test-chain with a different "PROTOCOL" parameter.

If you want to send transaction or query the test chain during the testing period replace main with test for your RPC calls or add --chain test param to cli calls.

/chains/main/blocks/head <- main chain head
/chains/test/blocks/head <- test chain head

If you want you can always manually pull the amendment tarball and build with the changes. The node would however not be able to interact with the main network afaik.

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