Armed robbery in progress

Our Christmas this year was very nice, with lots of good presents, time spent with family, delicious food, and an opportunity to foil an armed robbery. Yes, an armed robbery. How do I continually get myself into these situations?

While heading back home from my stepdad’s parents’ house, I spotted a guy standing in a small field at a street corner near my parents’ house, holding what looked to be a gun. The guy was probably late teens/early adult, Caucasian, and dressed in all black. His actions looked instantly suspicious. He was pointing the gun to the ground and made some motion as if he was checking the ammo or something. He seemed pretty lost in his own world, apparently not even realizing he seemed very suspicious.

My Mom was driving, and decided to slowly drive away from home instead of toward it, and then turn around, giving us time to watch and see what was happening. We knew there was a gas station across the street and wanted to see if he was going to head in there. If so, there was a good chance we’d be witnessing a robbery.

Sure enough, he started walking across the street to the TowerMart, a gas station/convenience store. We parked the car and my Mom grabbed my phone and called 911 while my brothers and I carefully watched from behind a building, making sure we weren’t noticed. We saw the guy walking back and forth at the side of the building, looking very nervous. He was wearing long sleeves with his left hand exposed and his right hand (which was holding the gun) completely covered. As my Mom talked to the police, we continued to watch, and the guy eventually psyched himself into going into the store. He put the gun in his pocket and went in.

The store was pretty crowded, and we weren’t sure what to expect. Would people be running out screaming? Would people be locked in? Would we hear gun fire? Or would he just leave?

We never saw him actually leave, but we could only see the one side of the building. A couple minutes later, six police cars drove up, two right beside us. Two cop cars pulled up alongside us. One of them hopped out, grabbed a big ol’ semi-automatic, and approached the building, pointing the gun, ready to fire. Three other cops did the same, surrounding the building. A couple other cops went in and got people out of there, with another couple cops asking those people if they had seen anyone matching the description we gave, or saw other suspicious activity.

They spent some time going through the TowerMart and eventually came back out once they were sure he wasn’t hiding in there. It seems at some point, he had left the building. We weren’t able to see when. However, he was definitely in there. Practically everyone they talked to noticed him, as he was nervously walking in circles around the building, completely covered. He had either grown nervous with the number of people in there, or heard the sirens come. Either way, he got out of there before doing anything.

As most of the cops started to exit the building, the one who had pulled up closest to us walked up and asked what we saw. Then he said, “Oh, I talked to you before.” We all thought that was strange, since he hadn’t actually talked to us, but then he pointed out that he remembered us from the assault back in May. Good memory.

We walked with him to the field and pointed out roughly where we saw him standing. He found the footprints and was calling out the detectives to take pictures or whatever. We chit-chatted briefly before returning home. He told us we very well may have saved the store and a lot of people from experiencing a robbery on Christmas Day. I just hope the guy didn’t make another attempt elsewhere.

We found out that an hour or two later, the police were still all over that place. About an hour ago, they apparently had arrested someone not too far from here. Whether related or not, I don’t know. Given that they had video footage of the guy, testimonies and descriptions from a bunch of people in the store, and his footprints, it’s probably only a matter of time.

The rest of Christmas proceeded without police intervention. Merry Christmas!

Ubuntu and Desktop Notifications

This past Monday, Mark Shuttleworth wrote about their plans for an overhaul of desktop notifications (the little popup bubbles telling you someone IM’d you or there’s updates available). Many people have asked me about this, some concerned, and wanted to know what I thought. Being the maintainer of libnotify, notification-daemon and the Desktop Notifications specification, some people were concerned that this work would supersede my own.

The reality is, this isn’t a replacement of my project. This is a new joint effort between Ubuntu, KDE, and myself. What’s been written in Mark’s post may not end up being the end result. We’re still deciding how this will progress, and Ubuntu wants to experiment a bit. Aaron Seigo’s post on the subject sums up a lot of my thoughts on this, and I recommend reading it, though I’ll go further and discuss where this all started and how it’ll affect the project.

First of all, libnotify/notification-daemon isn’t going anywhere. It’s not being replaced, nor is an alternate spec being drafted. Ubuntu’s User Experience team has some new things they want to try, and that’s fine. The plan is to see how this stuff goes in their codebase, with the intention of migrating code back upstream.

A couple of weeks ago, during the Ubuntu Summit, I was invited to speak with some of the developers and User Experience guys from Ubuntu about their plans. They showed me the mockup that’s on Mark’s blog and told me about their plans. They have things they want to do that could definitely improve the experience. Some things are pretty controversial, such as the removal of actions on notifications. We sat down, discussed and debated various aspects of the proposals for a while, and I believe reached a general course of action for the project. The highlights include:

  • Actions will be removed for applications packaged in Ubuntu. The developers will try to replace them with something that they feel makes more sense, with the hope of pushing these changes upstream.
  • The released notification-daemon will, I believe, support actions, since many non-packaged applications do use them. They will, however, appear as old-style notifications and not appear in the new window stack demoed in Mark’s blog post.
  • We’ll be drafting new additions to the notification spec in order to address the needs of KDE and Mozilla.
  • The work will be done by their developers in either a fork or a whole new notification-daemon implementation, allowing them a greater ability to experiment. These changes (or parts of them) will make their way upstream. It will be spec-compatible so users won’t have to worry too much about losing features (aside from actions, perhaps).
  • In the end, it’ll likely be that the Ubuntu theme specifically works this new way, and that other themes will work differently (they may support actions more directly, for example).

Now I should point out that I don’t believe actions are a bad thing. There’s many use cases where actions are very much warranted, and it seems Aaron agrees. While the Ubuntu team has discussed the possibility of deprecating this in the spec, I believe the end result will be that actions will live on. I’m also pretty adamant that upstream notification-daemon will still support actions and some other features. Ubuntu can choose what experience to give their packaged applications, but that may differ a bit from what we decide upstream.

Time will tell how this all turns out. I personally think it’s great that there’s some momentum on this project. I know I haven’t had much time to work on it as of late, between VMware and Review Board, which is why getting some new people on board with fresh thoughts will probably be a good thing.

On a related note, I’d like to welcome Andrew Walton to the project. He’s going to be working as a co-maintainer and helping out when I’m busy (which will be a lot of the time for a while).

Over the next month or two, the project should start to pick up. We’re beginning to look at ways to improve the spec and at what work needs to be done in the near future for the project. These discussions will take place on xdg-list.

And with that, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas (or just a very good December 25th for those who don’t celebrate Christmas)!

Fixing broken key codes in VMware on Ubuntu 8.10

I recently upgraded a system to both Ubuntu 8.10 and VMware Workstation 6.5, and while using it, I realized a number of keys were broken. The down arrow invoked the Windows Start Menu, for instance. Pressing Alt caused the key to be stuck. I knew this stuff worked in 8.04, but it certainly wasn’t in 8.10.

After some digging around, I found a forum post (lost the link, sorry) that fixed this. It’s worked pretty well for me, and so I thought I’d share for all those who have hit this issue.

Edit your $HOME/.vmware/preferences file and add:

xkeymap.keycode.108 = 0x138 # Alt_R
xkeymap.keycode.106 = 0x135 # KP_Divide
xkeymap.keycode.104 = 0x11c # KP_Enter
xkeymap.keycode.111 = 0x148 # Up
xkeymap.keycode.116 = 0x150 # Down
xkeymap.keycode.113 = 0x14b # Left
xkeymap.keycode.114 = 0x14d # Right
xkeymap.keycode.105 = 0x11d # Control_R
xkeymap.keycode.118 = 0x152 # Insert
xkeymap.keycode.119 = 0x153 # Delete
xkeymap.keycode.110 = 0x147 # Home
xkeymap.keycode.115 = 0x14f # End
xkeymap.keycode.112 = 0x149 # Prior
xkeymap.keycode.117 = 0x151 # Next
xkeymap.keycode.78  = 0x46  # Scroll_Lock
xkeymap.keycode.127 = 0x100 # Pause
xkeymap.keycode.133 = 0x15b # Meta_L
xkeymap.keycode.134 = 0x15c # Meta_R
xkeymap.keycode.135 = 0x15d # Menu

That should do it!

Twittering as Review Board Approaches 1.0

On the road to 1.0

We’re getting very close to feature freeze for Review Board 1.0. The last couple of major features are up for review. These consist largely of a UI rewrite that simplifies a lot of Review Board’s operations and moves us over to using jQuery. This will go in once it’s been reviewed and tested in Firefox 3, IE 6/7, Opera and Safari.

There are some preliminary screenshots up of the UI rewrite. Some things will be changing before this goes in, but it should give a good idea as to the major changes (if you’re already a Review Board user).

In the meantime, we’re working to get some other fixes and small features in, and I’m beginning work on a user manual. I’m not sure how much will get done for 1.0, but with any luck I’ll have a decent chunk done.

Twittering the night away

I’ve just set up a @reviewboard user on Twitter that I’m going to try to keep up-to-date as progress is made. This should give people a decent way of passively keeping track of updates if they’re Twitter users.

Barter system?

Britt Selvitelle of Twitter fame just sent me a great screenshot of a barter system for Review Board. Can’t get someone to review your code? Offer them something in exchange!

As some people know, we’re planning to have extensions in the next major release (1.5 or 2.0). This would be a fun little extension to have 🙂 Maybe I’ll write it as part of a tutorial.