June 30, 2015

in3Dgallery Major Update: Version 1.5 Online


After several weeks from the official release in San Francisco, and many many sleepless days figuring out bugs, improvements and general awesomeness, we finally released the new version of our product.

Directly from the changelog:

30/04/2013 – in3Dgallery v1.5

1. It is now possible to create an account from scratch, without logging in with Facebook
2. It is now possible to upload pictures from your computer, rather than from Facebook albums
3. Your Library can now contain pictures from mixed albums (Facebook and uploaded pictures)
4. New Facebook Share with real-time gallery screenshot attached
5. Galleries can now be shared via email
6. Galleries can now be embedded in third party websites via custom code snippet
7. It is now possible to edit pictures already included in your gallery
8. Gallery pictures can now be rotated (in addition to being scaled and moved)
9. General bug-fixing and performance improvements

We hope you will enjoy creating your own galleries to share with the world, and if you still haven’t done so, it’s about time you start!

A Very Practical Trick For Using Gmail in Your Business

A Very Practical Trick For Using Gmail in Your Business

I am surprised to see how many people still don’t make use of IMAP for their mailing needs. It has several advantages over POP3, especially if you have several devices. I have a desktop, a laptop, an iPhone and an iPad, and if I  accessed my emails through a POP3 server, I would have to download my mail on all 4 devices and remember what I have read and what I haven’t.

With an IMAP access, messages are sync’d on all of your devices, so if you read a message, its status is saved on the server rather than on your computer and it will appear read everywhere you access it.

Google Mail

Since Google’s offer of Google Apps account to businesses, it’s almost been a no brainer to switch your corporate mail over and take advantage of all the functions Google offers, from automatic contacts and calendars syncing to all your computers and mobile devices, to Microsoft Exchange support, to the chance of using your corporate mail to access every Google service like Reader, Youtube and even external OpenID ones like Flickr.

That’s why, as a company, we use Google Apps as IMAP/Exchange server for our email. There’s one problem though, and that is how to manage contact addresses.

Multiple Access

Let’s say, for example, that I have my main corporate email – advertised on my website and all – as info@companyname.it. And let’s say 3 people have access to it, and can download its messages.

If they want IMAP access to it, you’re in some kind of a situation: the first person reading a message will mark it read for the other 2. Now this sucks, so how do you solve it?

I thought about it for a while, but I think I found a reasonably efficient way that you can setup in like 10 minutes of work.

The Solution

1. Go into your Google Apps administration panel, and click on the Groups tab

Google Apps Settings - Create Group tab

2. Add a group named, for example, multi.info@companyname.it, and put in it the email addresses of all the people that should have access to the email (the 3 people of my previous example)

Google Apps Settings - Create Group panel

3. Go into the email’s (info@companyname.it) settings on Google:

GMail Settings icon

4. In the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab, choose to forward a copy of incoming mail to the group email you just created, multi.info@companyname.it. Google will send a verification code to check you really have access to this email, just input the confirmation code you receive and you’re done. Also choose to keep the incoming mail in the original inbox as well, you never know

GMail Settings panel

5. Bam, you’re done!

What Happens Now?

Practically, email sent to info@companyname.it will be forwarded to multi.info@companyname.it, and to all the people inside the group. So if dude1 reads a message, it won’t be marked as read for dude2 and dude3.

The added advantage is that none of them will have physical access to the original email (info@), so no one will be able to send email on behalf of it, which I consider a good thing.

This really helped me solve several issues with out corporate email, and I hope it will help you too.

Karma, Serendipity And Some Useful PHP Email Source Code

I was browsing Twitter yesterday evening and I run into this Tweet from Triberr founder Dino Dogan:

I need a php code snipped to send HTML emails. Any good ones you'd recommend? #php
Dino Dogan

Since I had quite an experience with preparing HTML emails to be send through PHP, I replied him suggesting the good old PHPMailer framework, which my company uses since a while, emailing him some snippet of code we use internally to make life easier.

In return, Dino was kind enough to offer me an invite to Triberr. Which made me think that most of the times, random acts of kindness are the birth of something more, leading to positive results in the short/mid and, heck, even long terms.

Karma always pays off eventually, I guess.

In honor of this I decided to post the suggestion I gave to Dino right here, maybe more people will find it useful hence enhancing my karma power (one can hope).

What is PHPMailer

PHPMailer is a PHP class that allows you to send emails through PHP in a very simple way. Sure, PHP has got an internal “mail” command, but it’s not that useful when you want to send more complicated stuff, like HTML emails (since we’re not in the ’90s anymore), or if you want to attach files to your email – all of which PHPMailer handles pretty elegantly.

Of course this little “howto” is aimed to more advanced PHP users, who will know what I mean straight on.

The Code

So yeah, once you uncompressed PHPMailer in the, say, phpmailer folder, this is the code I use to send an HTML email:

$mail = new PHPMailer();
$mail->SMTPAuth = true;
$mail->Username = ‘bla@bla.com';
$mail->Password = ‘123456’;
$mail->Host = ‘ssl://′;
$mail->Hostname = ‘smtp.bla.com‘;
$mail->Mailer = “smtp”;
$mail->From = “from@bla.com”;
$mail->FromName = “Bla Mailer”;
$mail->Subject = “Subject of the mail”;
$mail->AltBody = “To view the message, please use an HTML compatible email viewer!”; // optional, comment out and test
$mail = “”;

What does it do? Well most of the commands are pretty self-explanatory if you know a bit about PHP and emails, but to sum up, PHPMailer handles SMTP authentication over SSL (not mandatory, but it’s good to use it) so the first lines contain the configuration of my SMTP server.

The From, FromName and Subject are kinda obvious. AltBody is the body of the message if the recipient’s client hasn’t got HTML capabilities, and then the most important command: MsgHTML contains the real HTML message, which (and here’s the creative twist) is read from an URL with the PHP file_get_contents command. This allows me to read ANY HTML page and use that as the body of my message. Of course the URL can be any PHP-generated page as well, which allows for dynamic content and all.

Last, AddAddress simply adds the recipient of the message and Send() fires off the email.

And that’s it!

So, about you, do you remember doing some random act of kindness which turned into a pretty good, serendipitous investment?

How to Get Google +1 on Each Post of Your Blog

How to Get Google +1 on Each Post of Your Blog

It took Google a couple of months to figure out this part but finally they decided to activate the next step in their new social media platform launch strategy. Since a couple of days Google has enabled people to include the “+1″ button on their websites (for more info on +1, feel free to check my old post on the matter). But since there’s no WordPress plugin yet available, I decided to hack it myself (ok I am exaggerating, it really wasn’t that hard).

To be fair, just yesterday I have seen Mashable posted a guide about this that’s kinda accurate, however they include the +1 button generically on the whole website, rather than allowing you to put it independently on all posts.

Here’s what I did.

Get the actual code

That’s kinda obvious, click here and browse to Google +1 button builder, where you can specify the style of your +1 button and copy the code necessary to make it work on your blog.

Include the necessary Javascript in your template

This can be done in many ways. Mashable’s way is to modify the template’s footer.php file and add the line before closing the </body> tag.
My way, since I use the Genesis theme, was to include it as a hook in the sub-template.

Explained more clearly: Genesis uses “sub templates” so that you can forge one that you like without the need to modify the Genesis files (so you won’t be in trouble when you update it).
In the functions.php file there are all the various custom functions you need for your template, I just opened it and I modified the hook the template uses to write the copyright notes.

add_filter(‘genesis_footer_creds_text’, ‘custom_footer_creds_text’);function custom_footer_creds_text($creds) {
//$creds = ‘© 2015 ‘ . get_bloginfo(‘name’) . ‘ &bull; Built on the Genesis Framework powered by WordPress‘;
$creds = ‘© 2015 ‘ . get_bloginfo(‘name’) . ‘ &bull; All contents of this blog are <a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/”>Creative Commons licensed</a>. <a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/”>Click here for rights info</a>';
// Google +1 JS Implementation
$creds .= ‘\n<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js”></script>';
return  $creds;

See that I add the JS code to the $creds variable so that WordPress will print my javascript inclusion right after the copyright. Perhaps not the best way to do it but I am no WP wizard, and this was the easiest way for me. If course Mashable’s way is a lot more generic, so feel free to use it.

Include the button in every post

In order to do this, I used the GetSocial plugin. It’s a nifty plugin that adds a floating socialmedia menu on the left of your blog, where you can include every service you want (Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter etc.). Thing is, you can also include custom buttons, see where I am heading to.
In the plugin’s settings, under “Additional buttons” I simply put:

<g:plusone size=”tall”></g:plusone>

And that’s it

Now the +1 button appears in each of my post’s page, so people can +1 it indipendently. For example you could +1 this post right now, on the left, at the bottom of my SM buttons *wink wink*.

What will this mean for blogs and websites?

Well, to be honest I never really used much the little +1 button on Google search, mainly because you have to actually visit a link to know if it’s what you were looking for (well you don’t HAVE to, it’s just what I do), and when you find what you want and potentially would like to +1 it, you won’t get back to the search result page and do it. So having a button also on the link you visit will be very beneficial.

This said, will you use +1 on your blog? Do you have any other way you experimented in order to make it work and would like to share with us?

Delicious Rises From Its Ashes

The Fall of Delicious and the Rise Of... Delicious

I was writing about the fall of Delicious back in December, when one thing was sure, Yahoo! was going to axe their social bookmarking service pretty soon and no one was really queueing up offering to buy it.

The thought of losing all my bookmarks saved on it was really annoying, even though I suggested the possible alternative of Diigo, another service similar to Delicious for many aspects but also offering a whole set of new things to enhance the user’s experience (like page annotations, highlights and so on).

Breaking News

What happened just wednesday is that apparently Yahoo! finally did find someone to sell Delicious to, nothing less than YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen.

After selling the gargantuan video platform to Google for an astronomical amount of money, the two ventured into founding a new internet company, AVOS, whose main activity seems to be dealing with the transition from Yahoo! technology to proprietary in-house one (something that must not be easy seen how deeply Yahoo! services were tied into Delicious).

In the press release there’s much stress about how serious the two seems to be about this acquisition, and I have no doubts about that because seeing how Diigo is moving around their own service, there’s much to be done for Delicious as well.

The possibilities around a service effectively gathering all your website choices and making them available to others are huge, and seeing how we just started to scratch the surface of “social” it’s very exciting to see that two successful entrepreneurs decided to get their hands into this.

So, What Is Going to Happen?

Your data won’t be lost as I was initially afraid of back in my previous post. As AVOS effectively acquired it, at some point you will be asked to login with your Delicious/Yahoo! account and explicitly authorize this data transfer. Any successive change will then be communicated afterwards, even though the transition will be seamless. And that’s great news.

Why Shouldn’t I Switch to Diigo?

I don’t really know. I mean, I switched in January, and I am pretty happy about it. Despite the lack of a dedicated application for it (not like I searched much, I admit), the Chrome extension and bookmarklet for Safari work great. Actually, the bookmarklet works fine on Safari for iPhone/iPad as well, allowing to save bookmarks on the go as well.

However, if you stuck to Delicious so far I advise you to keep using it. The names involved in this operation make me kinda sure your data will be safe and the change will happen without hassles.

Delicious Rises Again

Like a phoenix Delicious rises back from its own ashes. Hurley and Chen are two top notch entrepreneurs, working at Paypal before founding Youtube, they definitely know what they are doing and if they believe in Delicious enough to acquire it from Yahoo!, I am pretty positive they have a solid strategy behind it.

As I mentioned, the possibilities are limitless, and as the transition happens in July we will probably begin to see Delicious’ future unfold.

It will surely keep being a social bookmarking service, but it will obviously become something more, to counter the offensive of all the other services who cannibalized many of Delicious users (me included) just a few months ago.

Will this be enough to become once again the #1 social bookmarking service on the web? How will they be able to monetize such a service without driving off users? Do they have any surprise up their sleeves? We will see very soon, I am sure it’ll be worth waiting for.

How Natuzzi Group Is Going to Radically Change Furniture Shopping

This is a deal we have in the works since nearly one year, but just today we can finally disclose more information and the actual name of our client, Natuzzi Group, the world leading producer of leather sofas with over 750 showrooms across the globe. 

The Problem

It is fairly straight forward. You see, when you go buying a high-end sofa for your living room, you usually sit down with an interior designer/sales agent and he starts jotting down sketches on paper to show you how a certain sofa will look in your home environment. This ends up turning off the customer more often than not, with a high percentage of people simply giving up or considering other options.
What they needed was a more immediate and advanced solution, and that’s why they came to us.


Natuzzi 3D configurator internal sales meeting

Lee Hunnisett De Beer, Corporate Retail Manager for Natuzzi Group, showcasing the 3D configurator at the internal sales meeting in Milan

The Solution

Thanks to Unity3D, we developed a configurator which allows the user to create virtual rooms (designing them from the ground-up, placing walls, windows and so on) and then proceed to place products from Natuzzi’s catalogue across the room, specifying colors and configurations among the many available (yes, all our experimentation with virtual shops and configurators wasn’t really done by accident).
After this, he can view a photo-realistic representation of the room, navigable in real time, which provides a fairly accurate real life feeling of how the final product is going to look like.
The whole experience can be completed either with a keyboard&mouse interface or through a touch screen device. The applications is available for both Mac and Windows computers and is initially meant to be used by Natuzzi showrooms under a sales agent supervision. However, since its learning curve is very low and user-friendly, it can definitely have a lot of other applications, especially when given directly to customers.

An automatic update system and XML data feeds allow the company to release library updates which include new furniture products. The configurator has also been personalized for the Italsofa brand of Natuzzi Group, specialized in young and dynamic products.


Natuzzi 3D configurator at Milan's Salone Internazionale del Mobile

Italsofa exhibition space at Milan's Salone Internazione del Mobile. The 3D configurator on the left is available to people for public testing.

The Results

Even though the configurator is currently in private beta by Natuzzi specialists, the feedback we had from them and the public at Milan’s “Salone Internazionale del Mobile” (one of the world’s most important exhibitions for furniture producers) has been totally awesome. People are genuinely interested by a new way of designing their rooms, and the wow-effect of the Unity3D engine applied to real-life uses can’t be underestimated, showing that it’s not just a pretty game engine but something that can actually boost your revenue stream in ways you never really thought of.

Personally, I believe it’s great when modern companies not only understand the real value behind innovation, but actively participates in the creative process of something new aimed to really boost sales, and not just to forge a new, nice press release.
The input from Natuzzi staff has been great, and the response and support of Pasquale Natuzzi himself, CEO of Natuzzi Group, has been extraordinary.
It’s always a pleasure to work along with truly enlightened companies and individuals.

Natuzzi 3D configurator, Pasquale Natuzzi and Francesco Marcantoni

Pasquale Natuzzi, CEO of Natuzzi Group, posing in a picture with Esimple Studios CEO, Francesco Marcantoni, at the sales meeting presentation.

Augmented Reality Experiments With Unity3D

Another Unity3D side project among the ones we are currently developing – lining up next to our anaglyph package and the Kinect experiments – is the Augmented Reality tests we have in progress and which allow us to put another “oooh” in the mouths of people stopping by our offices.

Of course we didn’t make the 3D models you can see up there, but Link seemed like a proper character to have some fun.

The webcam recognizes special markers printed on paper and assigns a character to them. At the moment we managed to make it recognize 2 distinct ones and, according to distance and orientation (as you can see in the movie), they stand idle or start beating each other up without mercy.

I have been asked to write a bit about augmented reality and its applications since a while, especially by my friend Petya Georgieva who will interview me for her blog as soon as I have a free moment (if you read this Petya, this is the prequel to your interview, I am getting there I promise!).

I’ll be sure to add more movies as we progress in the development – especially of the iPhone version which is in the works – and keep you updated on the results.

6 Points To Make People Totally Interested In What You Do

6 Points To Make People Totally Interested In What You Do

Wow what a week!

Since last week’s post about our Kinect experiment with Unity3D it’s been a constant buzz about that video, and how we did that, and what are our plans for the future. I confess I expected a general interest to grow around that, but not this awesome feedback, so first of all I want to thank every person who took the time to take a look at our post/video, much appreciated!

This episode gave me inspiration to write this blog post, which is surely less aimed to make you go “wow” (I am sorry guys, but stay tuned next week, the 3D fairies might have whispered me about new incoming experiments coming out, who knows…) and more to make you aware of what – I think – is needed to interest people in what you do in first place.

From my very personal experience, it comes down to one simple rule:

Keep in the loop

What does it mean? Well, a lot of things, actually.

First of all, whatever is your niche of interest (new technologies, in our case):

1. Be Curious

Without curiosity, you have no reason to push through. You’ll be happy with what you have, with no desire to advance, to go one step forward.

2. Keep Yourself Up to Date

Especially if you are in technology as we are, you really have to take all the necessary steps to be always up to date with relevant breakthroughs and news. In our Kinect example, it was thanks to our CEO that we started to experiment with this kind of technology. He follows industry blogs (and mind you, we are also late in that!) and act accordingly if something strikes him.

3. Keep Yourself Knowledgeable

Being up to date doesn’t mean you’ll always know what the news are talking about. If you don’t, read more. Guides, tutorials, HowTo’s, anything that helps you understand something you have no – or very little – knowledge about. That’s the only way not to stay behind, and it’s true in any business.

4. Be Creative

Even if you’re the best at your job and you know everything coming out in your market, you can’t simply do what everyone does and hope you’ll be more successful.

You will have to think different (obvious cite). If you put your own personal touch in what you do, even if it’s something not entirely new, you have much better chances of success than if you just copy others and hope to have more luck. That won’t break through in 99% of the times, trust me.

5. Dare

Simply put, if you don’t dare, you won’t go far. Going back to our Kinect video, we knew it wasn’t mature enough to be totally cool, but we chose to dare, and post some news anyway. It paid back.

When you’re not sure if what you’re doing is ok or not, my personal suggestion is: just do it. Of course not if you have STRONG doubts, but if it’s just a feeling, well, risk it. Without risks, there’s no reward, remember.

6. Build An Awesome Team

I already wrote about this, and it’s something I strongly believe in. In my opinion you can’t realistically hope to be great alone. Sure, it happens, but it’s not the normal way, it’s something extraordinary. A team will help you achieve success, and will cheer with you when you reach it, so it’s a win-win situation.

Some of this will sound pretty “duh” to you, but I think it’s important to have a clear mind before even thinking how to realize something cool, to be part of something truly important, and this is what came to my mind when I really thought about what’s behind what we do, what each member of our team believes in.

What are you doing to make people totally interested in what you do?

Unity3D And Microsoft Kinect? Hell Yeah!

It all started with an email that I – naturally – ignored from my CEO, saying he was fiddling with unofficial MacOS X drivers for the Kinect ’cause he saw some post around and he was all hyped up.

Of course after a few minutes there was some photo on his Facebook page about him going to buy a Kinect (before even having the drivers up and running, I add).

I didn’t give much importance to it until I came to work the next day to find our CTO dancing and jumping like he was on drugs.

Seeing a Kinect pointed directly to him made me realize he hadn’t just lost his mind.

So where’s Unity3D in all this?

Take a look at the video and tell me what do you think:

Of course the drivers-fiddling doesn’t make it a mainstream solution, but there are many uses for something like this, from motion capture to museums/installations/public exhibitions and whatnot. And drivers are getting better and better, and let’s not forget, it’s all completely legal (hey I wouldn’t be posting this otherwise).

Pushing Forward the Mobile Revolution

Pushing Forward the Mobile Revolution

It’s all around us, and so evident. Everyday, technology permeates our life more and more. We’re permanently connected, be it for our work, our interests, our very personal life.
Compared with 10 years ago, or even 5, everyone can see shocking differences, improvements in the way we relate to each other and with the technology around us. What appears like a freaking huge change didn’t really feel like it.

I can clearly remember the times when I had a simple phone. When I had a simple PC. When I connected to the Internet with a 36.6kbps dial-up modem. Now I browse the web with my iPad through a 24/7 connection, and it doesn’t feel much of a revolution. People fail to see the big change when it happens to them in first person, bit by bit.
Truth is, the technologic evolution is there, it’s happening for real and it’s shifting us towards a full-mobile life.

What does it mean for the average person?

New Flashy Gadgets

That’s surely the first big change. Every mobile phone now has to do at least 100 things better than phoning, be it Android or iOS or BlackBerry (I really don’t see many alternative to these 3 groups, at the moment).
The hardware evolved a big lot in these last years.
Energy consumption lowered to a point where using a phone more powerful than most computers of a little while ago is perfectly possible without having to constantly plug it in for charge.
The processing power is in line with a full-fledged computer, and sometimes the limited potential of a certain device is simply a design or philosophic choice (like some of Apple’s choices nowadays).
However, a shiny new toy isn’t enough to grant a true revolution.

True Power Lies In The Software

With devices substantially so similar to each other, real change has to be somewhere else.
It’s often in how these devices work that lie the true secret of success and technologic revolution.
Think about the original iPhone. It put in motion a process that’s shaping the mobile market now more than ever. Android was born taking advantage of that change. RIM itself is changing their BlackBerry line in light of these progresses, wether they admit it or not.

The mobile environment is shaping the software industry in a progressively more powerful way.
Applications tend to be more specific and light – consequentially cheaper as well – following the AppStore model. What’s the point of spending 200 bucks on a suite of programs doing everything, while you can spend 10 on an app doing just the task you require?
Developers realized they can profit from this kind of mentality because people are more inclined to spend small sums at a time, even in short periods of time, rather than a big amount of money in a single shot. It’s just human psychology, nothing new, just applied to a new field.

This is actually so successful that Apple decided to open a Mac-specific version for their AppStore after the iPhone/iPad counterpart, keeping the fundamental guidelines behind the phenomenon intact – particularly the central, curated store and the 70%/30% split income model – and showing how such an approach can be successful while marketing an application. So successful that, for example, Evernote doubled the daily accounts registration since the AppStore launched a few days ago. Global registrations, across all platforms.

A Change In Mentality

Such a revolution doesn’t run unnoticed, or without consequences.

Through the years there’s been a lot of talk about micro-transactions – when the price of the good is outweighed by far by the price of the transaction itself. To allow an app going for 99 cents to be profitable for developers and distributors (Apple in this case) it’s obvious that transaction prices must be close to zero. Payment services must adapt to this new need, and this really comes down to the specific situations in each country. I sadly don’t see Italy anywhere close to be leading in this, judging from our current bank system.

Big developing firms must realize that the classic monolithic approach isn’t as profitable as it used to be in the past. For example, Autodesk realized this with its Sketchbook Pro for iOS application, started as a sort of side-project “for fun” and now gradually earning consensus among artists – or simple doodlers – for its ease of use and sleek design.
Phenomena like Angry Birds open our eyes on the fact that a “simple” 0,99$ app can push forward the multi-million capitalization of its developing company.

Advertising as well is facing huge changes. I have talked about this already, but to sum it up, I strongly believe advertisers need a new mentality rather than simply a new playground for old ideas. New implementations to face the new market this mobile world is creating also for them.

Falling Behind

There’s a big slowdown to all this excitement. Carriers are definitely the last to be willing to change and adapt. Why?
It’s about keeping the status quo intact. For years carriers have been deciding the future of their subscribers, dictating when they had to switch to new plans, change their phone, approach new technologies. The mobile revolution reminds me of social media, putting the person at the center of “change”, for the first time. Technology is more accessible by more and more people, and these people need means to do so. Namely, data plans. Unfortunately, some carriers do not understand this need. In Italy for example there’s practically only one carrier offering competitive data plans, and even those aren’t always awesome.
In the States carriers are doing their best to haunt Android users, by delaying software updates (some carriers push new Android releases with even 6 months delay) and basically taking advantage of its “open-ness” by replacing default applications, user interfaces, splash screens and whatnot.
My 2 cents: if mobile progress is delayed, carriers have a big part of guilt in it.

Is It A Change For Everyone?

They say real progress is for everyone. Mobile definitely isn’t for everyone at the moment. But we are moving in that direction.

  • Phones prices are overall decreasing
  • Software is becoming easier and easier to use. Our company CCO gave his iPad to his 3 years old son and he was able to play games with it in a matter of minutes. So much that we are actually thinking to let small kids test our mobile software before going live (perhaps nothing new here, but it’s good when you personally think about it)
  • For how much I already smashed on carriers, they are overall going on the cheap side as well, and I hope they’ll go down even more

I talk for personal experience when I say I know many people not exactly swimming in money scraping enough to at least keep their phone up and running. It makes sense, as mobile gains a central position in our life each day that goes on.

Now it’s a new year. 2011, many agree, will push this revolution even more forward. Are you ready for it? Is your business?