How to use LESS on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

Here is how I got Less CSS to work on my web server, which runs Ubuntu.


The story so far:

  1. I have redesigned my site using Less to process the CSS.

  2. Processing CSS with Less requires lessc.

  3. You install lessc with npm and it requires the node command.

  4. The node package that comes with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS installs the node executable with the name nodejs, which prevents programs installed with npm from working.

A new hope

The new chapter begins with NVM, the Node version manager (via Justin Ellingwood). This looks to be Node’s answer to RVM and Python’s Virtualenv. As with Virtualenv, it is installed not as system administrator but as the individual user. On my server each site has its own user account, so I do something like this:

$ ssh
$ curl -o- | bash
$ nvm ls-remote
$ nvm install v0.12.7
$ nvm alias default v0.12.7

Now we can install Less in the usual way:

$ npm install -g less less-plugin-clean-css

Entropy strikes back

Alas! it turns out that despite my best hopes this does not quite work for deploying via Fabric because the changes to include nvm are in .bashrc which does not run for non-interactive shells.

Instead the code in must be changed to something like this:

with cd(code_dir):
    run('. ~/.nvm/ && make')

This will activate the default Node installation before running Make.