To be able to understand how the Factom community testnet will be put together, one first need some basic knowledge about the basic design of the Factom blockchain.
The Factom blockchain consists of ordinary nodes (like the one that runs as part of the Federation Wallet), as well as «Federated Servers» and «Audit Servers». These two last categories is referred to as the «Authority Set».
Initially the Factom main net (the production environment) consisted of 18 Authority servers (9 Federated- and 9 Audit-servers), all run and controlled by Factom.
Factoms Milestone 3 (M3) distributes the control of the Authority set to entities that will run the servers on a for-profit-basis. There will be 65 authority nodes eventually run by 65 different entities.
The Factom community testnet is a parallel network to Factoms main net, and hosted on servers/nodes provided by the community.
The testnet software/code will for all practical purposes be identical to the one used on the main net, but it will be configured to only interact with the testnet blockchain.
A (large) amount of Testoids (TTS) will be issued to everyone participating in the testnet. These are the counterpart of Factoids; and will be exchangeable for Test Credits (TC) that may be spent on the testnet to write to the testnet blockchain.
Currently Factom (and their customers) are running their own private testnets. For Factom these are very useful for testing new releases of the software, and their customers may use their testnets to learn how to operate without spending real entry credits or broadcasting to the world that they are currently working their way into the Factom ecosystem.
Factoms current, private, testnets are hosted «in house» with Factom and are not very well suited to test how the distribution of the Authority Set will affect the protocol and how it operates.
The Factom community testnet will provide insights of this kind to Factom, as well as be a good opportunity to get familiar with running and operating a Authority server.
In addition to the above, the Factom community testnet will be free to use for developers, and this will provide a good opportunity for those who want to interact with the protocol for testing purposes.
Well, first of all you will have to decide if you are going to run a server that will be part of the Authority set, or an ordinary factomd node. The testnet will need both kinds to function properly.
Joining as a part of the Authority set, as either a Federated server or an Audit server will require close to 100% up time, and should be hosted on a computer dedicated to this effort; alternatively hosted in the cloud.
People interested in participating in running an Authority node in the future, or who has a dedicated computer that satisfies the up time requirement should chose this option.
Most people would like to participate by running an ordinary factomd node, as this would not put any special requirements on up time and stability. A node runs in the system background, and does not use much system resources or bandwidth.
Even if you «just» run a ordinary factomd instance you will still be able to interact with the test-net by using the command line. Here you can convert Testoids to test credits to your heart’s content, as well as transfer (or hoard) Testoids just as you do Factoids.
There is no signup required to participate as an ordinary node on the testnet; just follow the instructions in the ‘how-to-install’-chapter carefully and you will be on your way.
After figuring out what kind of server/node you want to run, you should verify that the computer you will be using meets the minimum requirements:
A modern CPU
16 GB RAM
50 GB storage
20 MBit/s synchronous
Up to 1TB / month data transfer
Up time measured in weeks and months, not days.