Solar Power isn't Feasible!

Solar Power isn't Feasible!
This cartoon was on the cover of the book "SolarGas" by David Hoye. It echoes the Sharp Solar slogan "Last time I checked nobody owned the sun!"

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Saving charts as GIF and JPEG images in Excel: A thesis must!

The following graphs were exported from Excel as .gif files using Aaron Blood's "ChartPic" add-in:

The first aggregate graph plots the Zabaleen sample arranged by increasing estimates of monthly expenditures on hot water. As you can see, per capita expenses (monthly estimate divided by family size) loosely follows the monthly expenses, but there seems to be little correspondence to family size. Meanwhile, by looking above you can see that while electric heaters tend to cluster toward the right of the graph with the biggest spenders having electric heaters, even those who spend the least use electric heaters, while some those who spend alot use their gas oven.

This graph arranges the data by increasing family size, showing that there is little observable trend that larger families report spending proportionately more on hot water. Interestingly, however, this perspective does suggest that smaller families tend to be the one's with electric heaters.

The ChartPic add-in for Excel makes it easy for me to play around with different ways of arranging the data without going through the hassle of having to export to a paint program to create a viewable GIF or JPEG of the chart! Why is this so important? Read on:

Ever get to the point where a computer program gives you existential angst with every mouseclick?

I'm 45 with no income or savings, my first child is on the way, due in less than 100 days, and here I am struggling to get my dissertation written up so I can get the @!$%^ Ph.D. out of the way and go out and get a real job. That is the only way I can pay off my exorbitant student loans, move out of my wife's parents house and our slum apartment in the ghettos of Cairo, and start supporting my family. So time is of the essence, and every minute counts.

I may have 1 KW worth of photovoltaic panels, a 400 W Air 403 Wind generator, and a self-built solar hot water system, but with no roof to call our own to put them on I can hardly call myself "energy independent" or "off the grid" as I was when I lived at the Los Angeles Eco-Village. We've helped the poorest of the poor in Cairo self-provision with solar thermal systems, but now find ourselves as poor as the people we endeavor to help, and that is hardly sustainable. So the Ph.D. has got to be finished, and fast!

And Microsoft Excel is giving me headaches and keeping me up at night.

Sometimes, every keystroke counts. If time is money (or, in economic speak, "opportunity cost") then each keystroke represents foregone piastres, a drain on the dwindling household budget. How, then, to accelerate the herculean task of turning all those Excel charts and graphs into dissertation ready graphic images?

If you are like me, you have wasted cumulative hours of your precious life right-clicking on an excel chart, copying it, waiting for the Gimp or Photoshop to open (because Microsoft Paint can cause more trouble than it is worth, simple as it is, though I use that too) , going through the hassle of picking the right size template, pasting the image into the paint program, then dragging your mouse cursor up to "save as", picking a format from the drop down, navigating to the appropriate folder, and saving your image.

Ugggh. Just re-reading about the procedure makes me want to quit working for the day! Every little change or adjustment I make to my excel charts forces me to re-engage in the same arduous series of clicks. With every click I hear the tick of my own impending mortality, to say nothing of the imminent cry of a newborn suffering the indignity of being born to an unemployed father. Ah, the drama of doing a dissertation this late in life!

Fortunately, thanks to a great web-site/forum called, the life shortening, anxiety producing hassle of saving charts as GIF or JPEG images in Excel has come to an end!!

On the site, if you scroll down, you will find a link to download a nice little Excel add-in called "ChartPic.xla" created by Aaron T. Blood.

It really couldn't get any simpler. You follow Aaron's directions:

"Addin: ChartPic
Author: Aaron T. Blood
Rev 1: 4-14-2000

Website: The Excel Logic Page

ChartPic is a simple little Addin program that will
quickly and easily convert any chart on the active
sheet to a GIF or JPG image.

To use the ChartPic Addin save the ChartPic.xla file
to the directory of your choice and then from the
menubar select TOOLS/ADDINS/BROWSE and locate the
ChartPic.xla file. Once added to the list of available
addins, you just select it by putting a check next to it.

Once installed, you will see a new toolbar and button
appear at the top of the screen labeled "ChartPic".

Simply select a sheet with a chart or several charts on
it and click the "ChartPic" button. The ChartPic dialog
window will then appear where you can select which chart
to convert to a graphic image."

I tried it, and it works! You don't even have to scroll down your excel sheet and individually select each graph (mine are sometimes way off in UU750: XX1000 land!) From the ChartPic menu drop down you can select all your pictures without leaving the drop down. Thanks Aaron, you are a genius! It works so well that I've now added the "estimated monthly hot water cost" information to my graphs of family size vs. per capita hot water cost" and can now present those results here:

Zabaleen Electric:

Darb El Ahmar Electric:

Zabaleen Gas Heating:

Darb El Ahmar Gas Heating:

Zabaleen Stovetop Heating:

Darb El Ahmar Stovetop Heating:

Zabaleen One-Eye Portable Stove Heating:

Darb El Ahmar One-Eye Portable Stove Heating:

Zabaleen Hamil Heating:

Zabaleen Babur:

Darb El Ahmar Babur:

Hope it works for you too, if you have been having similar headaches with Excel and your dissertation (or other work).

Now if only had a way for me to simply drag images into my blog without having to upload them. That would save many mouseclicks and bring me that much closer to getting this dissertation finished...

Any plug-ins out there?


Marcel said...

Two words for you... "iWork" and "Numbers"

Apple's spreadsheet app in the iWork package is the business.

And, if you sign up for a Flickr account you can set it to automatically publish pictures to your blog - and you can email pictures to flickr.... so you email to flickr (with title and comments) and it squirts it to your blog for you. :D



T.H. Culhane said...

Thanks for the tip, M! The only reason I'm working in Excel on the Bootcamp XP side of my MacBook is that Mac OS does a terrible job of handling Arabic -- the font is there, but the letters won't concatenate properly leading to an unreadable mess! Since my data is in Arabic I have to rely on Windows admittedly admirable regional language extensions; also the Roh El Shabab Zabaleen staff and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture staff work in Arabic Excel on PC's. Only the bourgeoisie in Egypt use Macs (it is an even greater symbol of class there than in the U.S. where Mac elitism abounds) and there are at least two Mac dealers I know in Cairo but the prices are exorbitant. Also, the informal garbage recycling school teaches Excel to the children as part of their grant from Proctor and Gambel so they can calculate how much they can earn from collecting and shredding old shampoo containers.

It would be nice if Steve Jobs had the same philanthropic bent as Bill Gates (or at least the same Machiavellian philosophy of market share through philanthropy, if that is what is going on there -- not for me to judge!) Until then, though I have been an Apple Devotee since 1983,and a Mac user since 1985 (primarily using Macs for my graphics and video production work), I use PCs in development work. My colleague Andrew Posner, however, just got a $150 laptop, and I suspect that the $100 laptop project will make me a devotee of Linux.

Thanks for the suggestions, as ever!


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