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Setting up Speedlify on Ubuntu server

Published 30 Sep 2020.

Speedlify is an awesome free piece of software from Zach Leatherman for tracking changes in website performance over time. Before any customer asks, Speedlify is lacking a lot of useful features commercial offerings (like SpeedCurve, which we use on your sites) have to diagnose web performance issues. But for keeping a casual eye on performance regressions Speedlify is a great tool to have to hand.

I track all our clients’ sites using it. However setting up Speedlify on an Ubuntu server isn’t as straightforward as cloning the repository and running npm install.

tl;dr install these packages first:

apt-get install -y libgtk2.0-0 libgtk-3-0 libnotify-dev libgconf-2-4 libnss3 libxss1 libasound2 libxtst6 xauth xvfb libgbm-dev

How I got here

I find reading the thought process people follow when debugging useful, so here’s mine.

I first tried prepending DEBUG=* when running npm run test-pages, in the hope of seeing what was going on (I got the tip from this comment). Unfortunately it gave little output.

Then I thought about what software Speedlify was using. If I removed Speedlify from the equation and ran the software directly, I might get more helpful error messages. So I ran lighthouse directly using

CHROME_PATH=/home/speedlify/speedlify/node_modules/puppeteer/.local-chromium/linux-782078/chrome-linux/chrome node ./node_modules/lighthouse/lighthouse-cli  --chrome-flags="--no-sandbox --headless --disable-gpu"

This output an error message saying that a .so was missing. I installed that, re-ran the command and out popped an error message saying another .so was listed.

Now knowing what the problem was, rather than installing them one-by-one I went looking for a list of the required extra packages. After a bit of trial and error (there’s lots of “You need this to get Puppeteer to run” posts, many outdated - one of which I’d tried installing straight after my first comment, and it didn’t work) I found the list above.