The problem

After couple of minutes running, the machines crashes. Can’t ssh, can’t do anything. On an other machine, it works fine though…

So what is going on?


After digging a bit, I figured that the machine working was running the pip package selenium==2.45.0 and the faulty one selenium==2.46.0.

The python, node, phantomjs and the rest of the pip freeze are the same.

Isolating the issue

First step: trim down what is running. Doing this gave me more time on the machine before it crashes and I noticed that there is a lot of phantomjs process running, which doesn’t seem right.

Knowing that, I tried a simple script using a single instance of selenium to see what happen.

The script (from

from selenium import webdriver
driver = webdriver.PhantomJS()
driver.set_window_size(1120, 550)
print driver.current_url

Nothing too complex, we instantiate the webdriver PhantomJS (which will cause the phantomjs process to start), get the duckduckgo page and display the URL.

Doing this without driver.quit() indeed start the phantomjs process, but the interesting part is that it does so has a child of node. When calling driver.quit(), the node process does exit properly, but the phantomjs one does not. Doing the same test on selenium==2.45.0 result in driver.quit() correctly killing node and phantomjs


Revert to 2.45 :): pip install selenium==2.45.0.


At first, I though selenium tried to isolate the phantomjs process in its own process session and/or group, but after looking more closely, it appears that it is not the case.

On 2.46.0, running the test script before the quit:

$> ps  xao comm,pid,ppid,pgid,sid | grep phantom
phantomjs        84808  84806  84803  57599
$> ps  xao comm,pid,ppid,pgid,sid | grep node
node             84806  84803  84803  57599

So we do have node which is the direct parent of phantomjs and they are both on the same session and group.

After running driver.quit():

$> ps  xao comm,pid,ppid,pgid,sid | grep phantom
phantomjs        84808  1  84803  57599
$> ps  xao comm,pid,ppid,pgid,sid | grep node

Sending a SIGTERM to phantomjs does exit the process, so it means that selenium does not kill node with SIGTERM or any “hard” signal.

It would be interesting to dig into how selenium tells node to quit.