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Setting Up a Testnet

“Quick-start” for deploying a Steem-based Testnet.


Running a testnet is ideal for application developers who want to verify their app without broadcasting signed transactions over the mainnet. It’s also a great way for blockchain developers to verify changes to the blockchain and can allow witnesses to get a preview of changes that they are expected to approve.

Setting up a testnet can be as simple as running a single Docker command, such as:

docker run -d -P inertia/tintoy:latest

This docker command is useful for rapid testnet deploy because it only creates 2,000 accounts.

But in this tutorial, we will go over the no docker approach which will create all accounts that exist on mainnet. The idea is to try to mirror the accounts and balances in proportion to the mainnet.

If you want full details on setting up a testnet using Tinman, head over to that github:

Otherwise, let’s do the complete Quick Start:


Minimum Requirements

This tutorial assumes Ubuntu Server 18.04 LTS 2GB RAM and 200GB SSD/HDD.

Running a testnet can be done on minimal hardware, but in order to build a snapshot of accounts, you should already be running your own local Steem node because getting the snapshot is time consuming and if this process is interrupted, you’ll have to start over.

Not only are we going to use tinman to build the snapshot, we also need to compile steemd and configure it to run our testnet.

Installing Tinman

First, we need python (for tinman) and some other libraries:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install virtualenv python3 libyajl-dev git pv
virtualenv -p $(which python3) ~/ve/tinman
source ~/ve/tinman/bin/activate
mkdir -p ~/src
cd ~/src
git clone --branch master
cd tinman
pip install pipenv
pipenv install
pip install .

Building steemd

Next, let’s build steemd. Note, we are using the develop branch but you can use whatever branch you want. To see a list of branches that are currently being worked on, refer to:

sudo apt-get install autoconf automake autotools-dev bsdmainutils \
  build-essential cmake doxygen gdb libboost-all-dev libreadline-dev \
  libssl-dev libtool liblz4-tool ncurses-dev pkg-config python3-dev \
  python3-pip nginx fcgiwrap awscli gdb libgflags-dev libsnappy-dev zlib1g-dev \
  libbz2-dev liblz4-dev libzstd-dev
cd ~/src
git clone --branch develop
cd steem
git submodule update --init --recursive
mkdir -p build
cd build
cmake \
mkdir -p ~/opt/$STEEM_NAME
make -j$(nproc) install

A note on steemd branches: Selecting a branch depends on why you’re running a testnet. If you are doing blockchain development, you’re likely going to select your own branch where you’ve done some work that needs to be verified. If you’re a witness, you’re likely going to select develop or master to check stability. If you’re an application developer, you should probably select the stable branch because you want to test your app more than test the blockchain. Application developers might also select develop to try out blockchain features that have not been released yet.


The snapshot is a copy of all accounts on the blockchain plus some other properties. Having a full snapshot allows tinman to create a more realistic testnet. Here’s how we generate a snapshot:

cd ~/src/tinman
source ~/ve/tinman/bin/activate
tinman snapshot -s http://mainnet-steem-node:8090 | pv -l > snapshot.json

In the above example, we assume that http://mainnet-steem-node:8090 is our Steem node on our local network. If you use a public node to build the snapshot.json file instead (not recommended), just remember that this process could take quite a while and can be interrupted or rate-limited. You should consider running your own node.

As of September 2019, assuming the Steem mainnet node is local, this process takes approximately 15 minutes to produce a 3 GB output file.

Configure Tinman

We can take all of the defaults in txgen.conf.example, assuming you named your snapshot snapshot.json.

cd ~/src/tinman
cp txgen.conf.example txgen.conf

We can optionally adjust total_port_balance to adjust the supply on the testnet. But keep in mind, there is a blockchain limit defined by STEEM_INIT_SUPPLY.


Now that we have our snapshot.json file, we can generate the actions that will build our testnet.

cd ~/src/tinman
source ~/ve/tinman/bin/activate
tinman txgen -c txgen.conf -o bootstrap-init.actions

Building the actions is pure data-processing that doesn’t communicate with the outside world. It only processes the JSON snapshot and config file into more JSON. As of September 2019, this process takes approximately 90 minutes to produce a 2 GB output file.

Configure Bootstrap Node


At the startup banner, press ^C (Ctrl+C) to exit steemd. As a side effect, a default data-dir is created. Now we can purge the empty blockchain and create config.ini as follows:

rm -Rf $BOOTSTRAP/blockchain
nano $BOOTSTRAP/config.ini

Then make the following changes to the generated config.ini:

To summarize, the changed values are:

plugin = chain debug_node p2p webserver block_api chain_api database_api debug_node_api network_broadcast_api
shared-file-size = 12G
p2p-endpoint =
webserver-http-endpoint =
webserver-ws-endpoint =

Save config.ini and start steemd:


Bootstrap Node

Note, the secret can be any string. In this tutorial, we are using new-steem-rocks as the secret. Keep in mind that any person with knowledge of the secret will be able to transact using any account on your testnet.


cd ~/src/tinman
source ~/ve/tinman/bin/activate

( \
  echo '["set_secret", {"secret":"new-steem-rocks"}]' ; \
  cat bootstrap-init.actions \
) | \
tinman keysub --get-dev-key $GET_DEV_KEY | \
tinman submit -t \
    --signer $SIGN_TRANSACTION \
    -f die \
    --timeout 600

The above command will send bootstrap-init.actions to the bootstrap node using “fastgen” (as rapidly as possible). Fastgen functionality is provided by debug_node_api. Without fastgen, this process would take 3 seconds per 40 action (by default).

Configure Seed Node

Once the bootstrap is complete and we no longer need fastgen to import actions, we can start a new testnet node without debug_node_api. For simplicity, this new seed node will also run our initial witnesses for block signing.

We need to keep the Bootstrap Node running, so do the following in a new shell session:

$STEEMD --data-dir=$SEED

Again, at the startup banner, press ^C (Ctrl+C) to exit steemd.

rm -Rf $SEED/blockchain
nano $SEED/config.ini

Then make the following changes to the generated config.ini:

Now we need to add the names of all of the witnesses:

for N in $(seq 0 21)
echo "witness = \"init-$N\"" >> $SEED/config.ini

Add their private keys as well, note we are assuming the secret is new-steem-rocks for this tutorial:

for K in $($GET_DEV_KEY new-steem-rocks block-init-0:21 | cut -d '"' -f 4)
echo "private-key = $K" >> $SEED/config.ini

To summarize, the changed and new values are:

plugin = chain p2p webserver witness database_api network_broadcast_api block_api
shared-file-size = 24G
p2p-seed-node =
p2p-endpoint =
webserver-http-endpoint =
webserver-ws-endpoint =
enable-stale-production = true
required-participation = 0
rc-account-whitelist = porter tnman
rc-skip-reject-not-enough-rc = true
witness = "init-0"
witness = "init-1"
witness = "init-2"
witness = "init-3"
witness = "init-4"
witness = "init-5"
witness = "init-6"
witness = "init-7"
witness = "init-8"
witness = "init-9"
witness = "init-10"
witness = "init-11"
witness = "init-12"
witness = "init-13"
witness = "init-14"
witness = "init-15"
witness = "init-16"
witness = "init-17"
witness = "init-18"
witness = "init-19"
witness = "init-20"
witness = "init-21"
private-key = 5JDt8ydrkcr1DpgKychydc3iHYLAkHAw4gvKNTuqAFhd71tj6ZQ
private-key = 5KcCrHxKAMJ9kzLzkELSxJBuC2D7sTeab4Ne9SksLkacBFic5pj
private-key = 5J6RRNLd8LcL2ZuHGzKFukc4EqhvgHWRkMQHjnQCz528ubL27Y8
private-key = 5HqwZyAenu16JV4GLHDdKAXGprdGpAqLGZ6ryK1s3rmkUYxRMSv
private-key = 5Kg6doMKYJyPqgc6Xq6qXmGdLBfZATEGoTLWpWuAGvGHUtABWH2
private-key = 5Hw7B3vVSg3mMiRBXie8AUmTphJTThA6trDjQ4M36vU77Xodz8g
private-key = 5KUZUiLHqHj9Yd37EEqrj4QHmuJqi4jc1Vhf8KhH7uxP2BwJFgL
private-key = 5Je57g7PartUHQi9k7pZMbZmBe4M1DvJPz6seC2hqcWLjauh9Jh
private-key = 5J9vVvc3kWBwuqwmN8veAmxXbGwndjVZCRuWZWnLdo19Xa5eLZQ
private-key = 5KGyprgawwQXcUDnEukfRdc6QZpwdp8Y8DNswPBd9kNApHuFWbC
private-key = 5J6Jw9cn1ikkstG2NTMt116Ugg7RnsQd4DziiUsAgXVoRqdkGKD
private-key = 5Jt3EZnPoeWvG1Not9tNZ32MornR7Np6v2RAv1c4hwHbgJ1bQPr
private-key = 5KBCLqV2RPwoaUFhFjVwz4Jfq9WzMVVFDxvaeW7ZC6v1PKVZdRU
private-key = 5KaqFR7dbkhFAs5qZ63wjiXZSDviaRkDoE216v889hQoxwwHUsB
private-key = 5JQdnLjjdVMBdNwBgHHEKsUtXirXGdUfJZhVqUBsxCs3Ubn7dcq
private-key = 5K5puF2p8M5svXRGuJqCjwSk1Z41MZ5GtqCktSSX5vhFSWffy3r
private-key = 5Jno5L7jYMxQVehuGy2kAM9rtCdkRyrk97eokMzLro1Rm8CUDUx
private-key = 5KPEWXQnipNHaKaWjjKQ3K3yF5e22eFhu9ozALPhtGaBAfUxckp
private-key = 5JMcAJkWv9Nvy5Pt9vBZmzTymHxrmKgYXB6ekSF9sBgMHyYE2TC
private-key = 5JksFmSJLrFyq3YzdvRWcWzbqKQv4vrFaNEg8ix2zwCmR9JeTW3
private-key = 5JrMAjLaM48dwBco5khuB6FuGasaSxWenwbpqEBL6u4bqTtBgYY

Save config.ini and start steemd:

$STEEMD --data-dir=$SEED

At this point, our Seed Node will sync blocks from the Bootstrap Node.

Seed Node

Once the Seed Node has caught up to the Bootstrap Node, it’s safe to shut down the Bootstrap Node. The Seed Node will now take over block production.

Congratulations! Your testnet is running!

Gatling (Optional)

If you’d like your testnet to mirror mainnet transactions as they happen, you should run the gatling module. Make sure your Seed Node is fully sync’d before running gatling. Also make sure you use the same secret.


cd ~/src/tinman
source ~/ve/tinman/bin/activate

cp gatling.conf.example gatling.conf

( \
  echo '["set_secret", {"secret":"new-steem-rocks"}]' ; \
  tinman gatling -c gatling.conf -f 0 -t 0 -o - | tinman prefixsub \
) | \
tinman keysub --get-dev-key $GET_DEV_KEY | \
tinman submit --realtime -t \
    --signer $SIGN_TRANSACTION \
    --timeout 600 \
    --fail /dev/null


Problem: Got an error while trying to compile steemd:

c++: internal compiler error: Killed (program cc1plus)


virtual memory exhausted: Cannot allocate memory

Solution: Add more memory or enable swap.

To enable swap (do not enable swap on a VPS like Digital Ocean):

sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/var/swap.img bs=1024k count=4000
sudo chmod 600 /var/swap.img
sudo mkswap /var/swap.img
sudo swapon /var/swap.img

Problem: Got an error while trying to create bootstrap-init.actions:

ijson.common.IncompleteJSONError: b'parse error: premature EOF

Solution: Re-run tinman snapshot in the Snapshot section. The snapshot was likely interrupted or you ran out of disk space while saving the snapshot. It’s also possible you were rate-limited, if you’re using a public node, which is one of the pitfalls of using a public node.