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The browser-shots tool is developed by Internet Memory in the context of SCAPE project, for the preservation and watch (PW) sub-project. The goal of this tool is to perform automatic visual comparisons, in order to detect rendering issues in the archived Web pages.

The detection of the rendering issues is done in the following three steps :

  • Web pages screenshots automatically taken using Selenium framework, for different browser versions.
  • Visual comparison between pairs of screenshots using MarcAlizer tool (recently replaced by PageAlizer tool, to include also the structural comparison).
  • Automatically detect the rendering issues in the Web pages, based on the comparison results.

The browser-shots tool is developed as a wrapper application, to orchestrate the main building blocks (Selenium instances and MarcAlizer comparators) and to perform large scale experiments on archived Web content. It is implemented in Python, on a Debian Squeeze (64 bits) platform.
The browser versions currently experienced and tested are: Firefox (for all the available releases), Chrome (only for the last version), Opera (for the official 11th and 12th versions) and Internet Explorer (still to be fixed).
The script doesn't need any installation, just change the address of the Selenium nodes hard coded in the main function, and then run it using the command line with the options :

$ python -d ./demo  

In the directory "demo" we put text files, in each one a pair of URL.
In this version of the script we will test the differeces between browsers while displaying the same page. So under "demo", in each file text we put the same URL in two lines because by default it takes a pair.

###1. Getting Started :

The deployment and installation of the browser-shots tool is strongly dependent on different other packages, since it uses "off-the-shelf" components that need to be already available on your system, such as:

  • Python 2.6 or higher
  • Selenium 2.24.1
  • MarcAlizer 0.9
  • Firefox 3.6

In order to make all the tools running together, in a suitable environment, the following applications/packages need to be installed :

1.1. Selenium driver for the browsers : provided by Selenium in the Python Client on its official website (for example, the driver for Firefox is used in this project) Reference :

1.2. If the Graphical User Interface (GUI) is not available in your system, you can use an X server (for example, we used Xvfb v 11) Packages to be installed: xvfb, xfonts-base, xfonts-75dpi, xfonts-100dpi, libgl1-mesa-dri, xfonts-scalable, xfonts-cyrillic, gnome-icon-theme-symbolic

1.3. Python: we can check the installed version by typing the command line: $ python

###2. Testing and running the main building blocks :

2.1. Selenium
The Selenium framework can be used in two different cases: the first one is to run it on the local machine and the second one is to run Selenium as a server and several nodes in a distributed solution. The nodes will be called remotely by the server. To explore all options in the jar file type :

$ java -jar selenium-server-standalone-2.24.1.jar -h

To configure Selenium in distributed architecture and establish a connection with different nodes : Run a selenium hub using the option "-role" :

$ java -jar selenium-server-standalone-2.24.1.jar -port 8089 -role hub

And then, from the same Selenium jar, run the rest as selenium nodes by precising the option "-role" as "node" and the option "-hub" the address of the hub, following the example given above, the hub address is "" :

$ java -jar selenium-server-standalone-2.24.1.jar -role node -port 5555 -hub -maxSession 10 -browser browserName=firefox,maxInstances=10 -host

The option "-browser" define the browser that will open pages through the port 5555 and the max instances of the browser at the ame time. If the GUI is not installed in your system, you have to launch all the nodes of selenium in a virtual screen (the server X) :

$ Xvfb :1 -screen 0 1024x768x24 &
$ DISPLAY=:1 java -jar selenium-server-standalone-2.24.1.jar -role node -port 5555 -hub -maxSession 10 -browser browserName=firefox,maxInstances=10 -host

2.2. Firefox
In order to use Firefox, one option is to create a symbolic link to Firefox and then run the firefox command :

$ firefox

If you don't have a GUI, an error will be displayed: "Error: no display specified".
If this is the case, you need to run the Xserver first :

$ Xvfb :1 -screen 0 1024x768x24 &
$ DISPLAY=:1 firefox

2.3. MarcAlizer
The MarcAlizer application (jar file + auxiliary sub-folders and libraries) needs to be extracted from the downloaded package.
Reference :

The Marcalizer needed in the script is not only the jar, but it contains also other tools :

  • Download it from : , we need only the directory "marcalizer" (containing in, out and marcalizer.jar)
  • Place it in the same directory as the script. You should have this structure : ./ ./marcalizer ./marcalizer/in ./marcalizer/out ./marcalizer/marcalizer.jar

In order to test if MarcAlizer runs correctly, one can use the following command line :

$ java -jar marcalizer.jar -snapshot1 ./in/images/1/pic1.png -snapshot2 ./in/images/1/pic2.png

This command should give you a result similar to this output :

SIFT Computation...
BOW Computation...
Visual Features Computation...