Pivotal Engineering Journal

Technical articles from Pivotal engineers.

Headless UI Testing with Go, Agouti, and Chrome

Acceptance tests for your UI are an excellent way to cover user functionality. Let’s see how to write a simple acceptance test in Go with Agouti and have it run headlessly in a CI environment with Chrome.

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Categories:   Testing    Go    Agouti    Chrome    UI Testing    UI   
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Acceptance tests are a fantastic way to ensure - from a user perspective - that your application works correctly. A popular UI acceptance test library is Agouti. This post will detail how to write a small Agouti acceptance test and run it in a containerized environment; one which mimics a CI environment.

In this blog post we’ll be using the following:

Note: All code is assumed to live at $GOPATH/src/website (feel free to change website to anything)

Writing a simple web app

Let’s create a simple main.go:

package main

import (

func main() {
	http.HandleFunc("/", func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
		w.Write([]byte("<html><body>Hello World</body></html>"))
	fmt.Println("Starting on :8080")
	fmt.Println(http.ListenAndServe(":8080", nil))

We can now go run main.go and navigate to localhost:8080 and see our UI!

Writing a simple test

First, let’s get our dependencies:

go get github.com/onsi/ginkgo/ginkgo
go get github.com/onsi/gomega
go get github.com/sclevine/agouti

Then, let’s set up our suite - website_suite_test.go:

package main_test

import (
	. "github.com/onsi/ginkgo"
	. "github.com/onsi/gomega"


var (
	agoutiDriver   *agouti.WebDriver
	websiteSession *gexec.Session

func TestWebsite(t *testing.T) {
	RunSpecs(t, "Website Suite")

var _ = BeforeSuite(func() {
	agoutiDriver = agouti.ChromeDriver()


var _ = AfterSuite(func() {

func getPage() *agouti.Page {
	var page *agouti.Page
	var err error
	if os.Getenv("TEST_ENV") == "CI" {
		page, err = agouti.NewPage(agoutiDriver.URL(),
				"chromeOptions": map[string][]string{
					"args": []string{
						// There is no GPU on our Ubuntu box!

						// Sandbox requires namespace permissions that we don't have on a container
	} else {
		// Local machines can start chrome normally
		page, err = agoutiDriver.NewPage(agouti.Browser("chrome"))

	return page

func startWebsite() {
	command := exec.Command("go", "run", "main.go")
	Eventually(func() error {
		var err error
		websiteSession, err = gexec.Start(command, GinkgoWriter, GinkgoWriter)
		return err

And finally our test - website_test.go:

package main_test

import (
	. "github.com/onsi/ginkgo"
	. "github.com/onsi/gomega"
	. "github.com/sclevine/agouti/matchers"

var _ = Describe("Website", func() {
	It("Displays hello world", func() {
		page := getPage()
		defer page.Destroy()

		Eventually(page.Find("body")).Should(HaveText("Hello World"))

We’ll need to make ChromeDriver available on our $PATH before we can run this on our local machine. Once that’s done, run ginkgo to see this work.

Setting up your CI environment

Concourse uses Docker containers to run tasks, so let’s create a container that can run our test. Create the following Dockerfile:

FROM ubuntu:14.04


# install utilities
RUN apt-get update
RUN apt-get -y install wget --fix-missing
RUN apt-get -y install xvfb --fix-missing # chrome will use this to run headlessly
RUN apt-get -y install unzip --fix-missing

# install go
RUN wget -O - 'https://storage.googleapis.com/golang/go1.7.linux-amd64.tar.gz' | tar xz -C /usr/local/
ENV PATH="$PATH:/usr/local/go/bin"

# install dbus - chromedriver needs this to talk to google-chrome
RUN apt-get -y install dbus --fix-missing
RUN apt-get -y install dbus-x11 --fix-missing
RUN ln -s /bin/dbus-daemon /usr/bin/dbus-daemon     # /etc/init.d/dbus has the wrong location
RUN ln -s /bin/dbus-uuidgen /usr/bin/dbus-uuidgen   # /etc/init.d/dbus has the wrong location

# install chrome
RUN wget -q -O - https://dl-ssl.google.com/linux/linux_signing_key.pub | apt-key add -
RUN sh -c 'echo "deb [arch=amd64] http://dl.google.com/linux/chrome/deb/ stable main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google-chrome.list'
RUN apt-get update
RUN apt-get -y install google-chrome-stable
RUN wget -N http://chromedriver.storage.googleapis.com/2.25/chromedriver_linux64.zip
RUN unzip chromedriver_linux64.zip
RUN chmod +x chromedriver
RUN mv -f chromedriver /usr/local/bin/chromedriver

Let’s build our Dockerfile: docker build . -t my-ci-container

Running your test headlessly

Let’s now enter the container and run test scripts as if we were the concourse task:

  1. First, enter the container with our app directory mounted:

    docker run -it -v $(echo $GOPATH/src/website):/gopath/src/website my-ci-container
  2. Let’s run the following in the container:

    export GOPATH=/gopath
    export PATH=$PATH:$GOPATH/bin
    go get github.com/onsi/ginkgo/ginkgo
    go get github.com/onsi/gomega
    go get github.com/sclevine/agouti
    service dbus restart
    cd $GOPATH/src/website
    xvfb-run TEST_ENV=CI ginkgo -v


We’ve now created an acceptance test to test a very small server, and had it run locally in a docker container. This blog post ends here, but in a real world environment you might use the Dockerfile we’ve created as the task image for a concourse.ci pipeline task, and use the commands that we ran manually as the pipeline task script.


Chances are, something will go wrong along the way. Here’s what we’ve used to debug this stack:


test -> Agouti -> ChromeDriver -> google-chrome -> X server (via xvfb-run)

test->Agouti: Tests use Agouti

Agouti->ChromeDriver: Agouti talks to ChromeDriver over HTTP

ChromeDriver->google-chrome: ChromeDriver spins up google-chrome instances for each ‘session’ (in Agouti this is NewPage)

google-chrome->X server: The X server acts as the ‘gui’ for google-chrome. It can be started with Xvfb or by wrapping the chromedriver call with xvfb-run

Debugging ChromeDriver

ChromeDriver can manually be run with the chromedriver command. Helpful tips:

  • chromedriver --verbose reveals a lot of info, including the command it runs google-chrome with!
  • Agouti can spin up ChromeDriver itself with agouti.ChromeDriver().Start()
  • Agouti can spin up ChromeDriver with --verbose by crafting your own NewWebDriver command (.ChromeDriver() is a very light wrapper)
  • You can spin up your own ChromeDriver (ex. chromedriver --verbose), and point Agouti at it with agouti.NewPage("", ...) (9515 is the default port). The command NewPage is basically a curl -XPOST -d '{"desiredCapabilities": {}}'

Debugging google-chrome

Google-chrome can manually be run with the google-chrome command. Helpful tips:

  • curl -XPOST -d '{"desiredCapabilities": {}}' to create your own session - this is analagous to Agouti’s NewPage. When run after a chromedriver --verbose, it will give you a bunch of useful info.
  • Each curl -XPOST -d '{"desiredCapabilities": {}}' starts a google-chrome process. Each of these processes is a page!
  • Change how the google-chrome process is spun up by adding capabilities. For instance, you might want to have chromedriver spin up google-chrome processes with the --disable-gpu and --no-sandbox options (see below)! This would be:

    curl -XPOST -d '{"desiredCapabilities": {"chromeOptions": {"args": ["disable-gpu", "no-sandbox"]}}}'

Here are some common errors that you might see if you were to try to run the google-chrome command:

Failed to move to new namespace: PID namespaces supported, Network namespace supported, but failed: errno = Operation
not permitted
Illegal instruction

google-chrome is trying to do sandbox-y things that a container won’t let it do. Run with --no-sandbox option: google-chrome --no-sandbox

root@6a59557360dd:/gopath/src/website# [1120/020402:ERROR:nacl_helper_linux.cc(311)] NaCl helper process running without
a sandbox!
Most likely you need to configure your SUID sandbox correctly

This cryptic error probably means that google-chrome is having trouble connecting to the X server. Run xvfb-run google-chrome --no-sandbox, or start X server manually (xvfb-run wraps this):

Xvfb :99 &
export DISPLAY=:99
google-chrome --no-sandbox

libGL error: failed to load driver: swrast
[1308:1332:1120/020823:ERROR:browser_gpu_channel_host_factory.cc(113)] Failed to launch GPU process.

This container has no GPU. Run with --disable-gpu option: xvfb-run google-chrome --disable-gpu --no-sandbox

[1141:1152:1120/020700:ERROR:bus.cc(434)] Failed to connect to the bus: Failed to connect to socket
/var/run/dbus/system_bus_socket: No such file or directory

The dbus service hasn’t started. You can:

  • Check status with service --status-all
  • Restart dbus with service dbus restart (be sure to service --status-all after)
  • Modify /etc/init.d/dbus with log statements and the like to further debug

Xlib:  extension "RANDR" missing on display ":99".

You can ignore this error.