Stefano Tommesani

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AskWatch: adding your kids

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Start AskWatch from the Start screen (in Windows 8) or from the Start menu (in Windows 7). The following, mostly empty screen appears:


Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 August 2013 23:00

AskWatch: why you need it

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What is is a social Q&A site where users can ask other users questions. The questions can be from a named user, or completely anonymous. It is unmoderated (unless a user reports something), has no parental controls, and is an Latvian company. The concept seems harmless: you register, create a profile, and ask/answer questions that are posted to you. The problem is around the anonymity of the messaging. In the settings, you have the ability to block anonymous questions, but most users do not do this. You have the ability to blacklist users, assuming you know who they are. The terms of service says that you need to be 13 years old or older to join the site, but this is bypassed regularly.

Why should you worry for your kids?

Michael Sheehan said it best in his article named "Parents Be Warned! is a Dangerous & Deadly Social Site for Teens & Tweens":

Again, this seems relatively harmless, right? WRONG! is rapidly becoming a site for bullies and seemingly sex-crazed users (even if it is simply innuendos in messaging). And I believe that parents (especially in the US) don’t know much about yet. It seems that since this service originally launched in Europe, it had more attraction there initially. Since then it has come overseas to the States.
Last Updated on Friday, 09 August 2013 14:09

AskWatch: finding alarm words in conversations

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AskWatch can tag questions and answers that contain alarm words. For example, you may want to highlight messages related to sexual activities, such as the following one:


Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 August 2013 16:37

On bad web interfaces

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Today I have encountered the following error message in a major web site:



  • there was no warning on the web page about this limitation (e.g. "type up to 3000 chars")
  • there was no warning while typing that I was entering too much text, so that I would not waste time writing feedback that I cannot submit (no real-time hints)
  • I only knew about it at the end of the process, when I clicked on then Submit button at the bottom of the form and the request was rejected (slow feedback loop)
  • there was no information about how much the text I entered was longer that the maximum lenght allowed (e.g. "your text is 45 chars too long"), so I had no idea of how much should I shorten it (focus on the requirements, not on what the user is doing wrong). It became a slow trial-and-error experience, cutting a bit and clicking Submit, getting the error message and repeating again, and again... is this what you call "being user friendly"?

I see these UI mistakes daily. Many web sites, even from major brands, have terrible UIs that choke if entered data is only slightly different than what they expect, and signaling of errors happens only when users submit a whole form instead of providing local, real-time assistance with entered data not matching the specifications.

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 July 2013 00:46

AskWatch: track your kids on

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AskWatch interfaceAskWatch is a free software application for Microsoft Windows 7/8 that helps you:

  • find your sons in
  • keep track of the questions they receive and how they answer
  • see who they are talking to
  • highlight the Q&As that contain alarm words

Latest release: v. 0.6.4 Beta (October 13th, 2013)

Version 0.6.4 fixes parsing errors on the website.

New in version 0.6.3: approximate matches using the Metaphone algorithms. To declare an approximate alarm word, add a + prefix before the word, so that:

  • "love" will only match "love", "Love" and so on, but
  • "+love" will also match "luv" and other phonetically similar words 
  • "+Steven" will also match "Stephan" and other similar names

DownloadSmallclick on the Download icon
to freely download and
use AskWatch

Facebook-128click the Facebook icon
to open the official AskWatch
page on Facebook
Last Updated on Sunday, 13 October 2013 16:28

Returning buffers with C++ and Boost

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In the article comparing CPU and GPU implementations of the median filter, the class was designed to receive image buffers with the AddSample method and return a pointer to the image buffer with the GetMedianImage method:

class TM_CPURefImpl :
    public TM_BaseClass
    TM_CPURefImpl(const int _NumSamples, const int _BufferSize);
    virtual ~TM_CPURefImpl(void);
    virtual void AddSample(void *NewBuffer);
    virtual void *GetMedianImage();
    unsigned char *Buffers;
    unsigned char *MedianBuffer;
    std::vector<unsigned char> SortBuffer;
    unsigned char *MedianValuePtr;
    void BuildMedianImage(unsigned char *NewBuffer);

However, this is a poor design (granted, OOP was not the aim of the article) and should be improved. In fact, it assumes that the programmer using this class never:

  1. deletes the class instance and keeps using the returned buffer
  2. deletes the returned buffer
Last Updated on Monday, 03 June 2013 23:55

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