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Hudson Ci Server Running Selenium/Webdriver Cucumber in Headless Mode Xvfb

I was determined to get our CI server running cucumber features in headless mode. I ran into a few webdriver problems which resulting in a small monkey patch (capybara patch being written and submitted) for capybara. This is how I got it running on a fedora 12 server (and some tips on getting it working on an ubuntu server).

Install Xvfb

On fedora

sudo yum install xorg-x11-server-Xvfb

on ubuntu

sudo apt-get install xvfb

Running Xvfb

To run Xvfb, in console simply type, then set a environment variable to bind all X requests from the command line to go to the new virtual deskspace

  Xvfb -ac :99
  export DISPLAY=:99

This will launch a new virtual display bound to display 99.

Install X11VNC to see whats happening!!

This is very cool. You can actually set up a vnc server and bind it to the virtual display to see what is happening!!! On Fedora

   sudo yum install x11vnc

On ubuntu

 sudo apt-get install x11vnc>

To run

Simple run the following command! And point your VNC client to the installation server!

 x11vnc -display :99 

Test it by going to the command line and typing something like xterm or firefox!


Install the hudson gem The hudson gem is in the gems repo, but for docmentation go http://github.com/cowboyd/hudson.rb. I generally do this as the user “hudson”.

  gem install term-ansicolor
  gem install yajl-ruby
  gem install httparty -v=0.5.2
  gem install builder -v=2.1.2
  gem install thor -v=0.13.6
  gem install hpricot 
  gem install hudson --pre

Install hudson

On the command line just type

 hudson server 

this will install hudson, and save configuration to the ~/.hudson directory

Checkout your application to this box

First thing is to ensure you have set up a git user and email in the global config

  git config --global user.name "hudson"
  git config --global user.email "hudson@myserver.com"

Then clone your app down, install all associated gems and create your testing database

  git clone git@github.com:username/mygitrepo.git
  rake gems:install
  rake db:create:all
  RAILS_ENV=test rake db:schema:load

Test cucumber/webdriver runs

Type cucumber in your apps directory

Create a new Hudson Project

Thanks to the hudson gem, you can set up the inital project skeleton via the command line (isn’t technology great) Here we can use the hudson create command and tell hudson to use the current directory, and that hudson is installed on localhost:3001

  cd #{to_your_rails_app}
  hudson create . --host localhost --port 3001

Set up the hudson project

Log into the project, if its on your local computer, point your browser to http://localhost:3001 and click on your project, also skip this next section. If you’re installing hudson on a remote server you’ll need to ssh port forward since hudson at this point is only listening on localhost.

  ssh -L 8123:localhost:3001 hudson@mytestserver.com

Then open a browser and point it to http://localhost:8123 and click on your project

Set up the build

  1. Remove all defined build sets.
  2. Add a new build step “Execute Shell” with the command “cp config/database.tests.yml config/database.yml”
  3. Add a new build step “Exceute Shell” with the command “RAILS_ENV=test rake gems:install”
  4. Add a new build step “Execute Shell” with the command “RAILS_ENV=test rake db:migrate”
  5. Add a new build step “Execute shell” with the command “spec spec” # if you have specs
  6. Add a new build step “Execute shell” with the command “DISPLAY=:99 cucumber” # with cucumber Press the save button.

If webdriver doesn’t append to your virtual display

If webdriver doesn’t append to your Xvfb then you can put this script in /features/support/capybara_webdriver_patch.rb

# Added profile support for capybara, so we can run our tests in headless mode
class Capybara::Driver::Selenium < Capybara::Driver::Base
  def self.driver
    unless @driver
      profile = Selenium::WebDriver::Firefox::Profile.new
      profile.load_no_focus_lib = false
      @driver = Selenium::WebDriver.for :firefox, :profile => profile
      at_exit do

Some after thoughts

Some extras you should set up before you think your finished. They’re outside of the scope of this document but there are plenty of docs out there on the interwebs who can give you all the information you need to rock and roll.

  • At the moment its open to everyone, go to global configuration and set up ACL’s
  • Your builds aren’t very continuous yet, you can schedule builds periodically by going into the project configuration area, or I believe you can tie it into githubs callback mechanisms


Alister Scott: There is a ‘headless’ gem that does all the xvfb stuff for you. Also, there is a Jenkins rake plugin which can execute rake for you automatically. See this blog post of mine for further info: http://watirmelon.com/2011/08/29/running-your-watir-webdriver-tests-in-the-cloud-for-free/