I’ve had this on and off again problem with Jenkins running my tests.

Turns out, that my local problem (Windows install) was related to the Jenkins windows install not allowing the Jenkins service to run applications in the foreground!

That’s why the browsers never came up when it was running.  Sometimes it would have permission errors and time out!

So, to resolve it, I found this:
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/9618774/jenkins-selenium-gui-tests-are-not-visible

basically, you first

KILL the Jenkins service running on windows

Then run java -jar jenkins.war from the Jenkins install folder (i.e. c:\program files(86)\Jenkins

That will start the server and it will kick off the browsers run on the tests! 

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