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Currently for the C++ plugins in rqt there is no spinning ROS thread therefore ROS timers do not work. Temporary you could work around it by using Qt timers instead.

I have created two pull requests which will add the functionality to rqt. If you want to give it a try checkout the branches of the following two pull request into your workspace: https://github.com/ros-visualization/qt_gui_core/pull/39 and https://github.com/ros-visualization/rqt/pull/95 Then your timer should fire as expected.