Imagine you want to install Etherpad lite on your server. You go by certain install guides you find on the web and, all of a sudden, you get this on the command line:

Let’s put first things first: How did I get there? I wanted to get Etherpad Lite working on my server, because I think it’s a nice little programme. So I followed first this guide to get a recent node.js on my Ubuntu system. Then I followed this guide to install Etherpad Lite. And because I am not too experienced with the basic command line commands to add a new user, I used the code I found here:

This proved to be the wrong way, but I made some other mistakes. After having Etherpad Lite copied to my server I tried to run it like explained in the guide, and I got the error message I have written up there. The advice to run the command as root seemed a bit strange, but as there was not really anything at risk, I risked it. It didn’t help much, the problem persisted. Then I found this hint to just run

which I did, and I got some result in my browser. I could start a new pad, but then, I got this instead of a working pad:

So I sent this to the Etherpad Lite programmers (actually it was John McLear who answer the E-Mail, and like really quick I mut add. Thank you John).

I supplied John with the output of the command line while Etherpad Lite was running (with said error) in the browser:

John told me it looked like I just had to re-install Etherpad Lite following the install guide. So I did (taking into account that trying to run the whole thing as root might have broken something).

And what I got was… the error message I had right in the beginning. I don’t know how I finally came to the right answer to the question (it was early in the morning and I just can’t remember right), but it turned out the problem was that the nodejs user I added in the beginning had no home directory. The script to start Etherpad Lite seems to try to install the node.js package manager to a directory named .npm in the home directory. So I deleted the user node.js and added him again with the commands:

Having done so I tried to start Etherpad Lite again and, what shall I say? It finally worked!

I hope this rather lengthy Blogpost will be helpful for some of you. That’s why I put all the error messages in here and why I came to where I was.

Please note that this was written on April, 9th 2013. The system I worked on was Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS, the Etherpad Lite Version was 1.2.91 and node.js was 0.10.3. Things might be different with other versions.