Friday, August 22, 2008

The Amazing Chase is Back!

Hey everyone,

It's that time of year again -- time for the Amazing Chase. This is a super-fun fundraiser, modeled after the television series The Amazing Race, put on by St. Monica's Behvioral Health Services for Women. My team, "Scared Hitless" actually won this last year. Last year we raised over $2,500, which started us in 5th, but we were able to make it up. The competition looks fierce this year, though, so we're gunning for $4,000.

The first leg of the race involves raising money for St. Monica's. The more we raise, the better starting time we get. Here's where you come in. Here's a quick, easy way to support my team. Any little bit you can afford helps. AND, for one lucky donor, I'll throw in a free $50 Project.

Thanks in advance to everyone who helps.



Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Parsing Google Search Results for URLs

I had a visitor on the blog yesterday who was interested in my old Google search results parsing code. Apparently he found Goohackle's Gooparser and liked what it does -- i.e. return just a clean list of URLs from the search results of Google -- but wanted a way around the limit for the number of results and a way to pull them directly into Excel.


I cleaned up the old code for him. The result is a nice, clean worksheet that returns just the URLs from Google search results pages. You can set how many results per page and pages you'd like to return. Be careful, though, as if you hit Google too many times too quickly, they'll start to block you, asking you for your API key, etc. I've built in a random pause (3 to 7 seconds) between the pages in a multi-page query in an effort to prevent this from happening, but no guarantees. Google is a pretty sophisticated outfit, so they may still be able to detect an automated harvesting of data without using the API.

Geoff, enjoy the file. Insiders, the file's on the way.



Sunday, August 10, 2008

Updated UPC Barcode Generator

Remember back when I told you about a $50 Project where I created a handy little UPC barcode generator in Excel? I noticed after that post I receive a meaningful amount of traffic from search engines based on phrases like "barcode generator" and the like. I kept wondering who those people were. Well, not that long ago I found out who at least one of them is: a guy named Ian.

Ian contacted me and wanted me to tweak the barcode generator I had built to suit his needs. Instead of generating one UPC barcode image at a time that he could copy-paste as he needs, he wanted to be able to generate long lists of UPC barcode images and save them as .JPEG files, so that he could later use a mail merge type function to pull them into documents as he needed. Sweet idea. Seemed pretty straightforward...

Turns out that getting those images I created using the little known camera feature in Excel exported to .JPEG files is not so simple. What I ended up doing is creating on the fly what is essentially a blank chart object and them filling it with the image, then exporting the chart as an image using the Chart.Export function in VBA. Whew. Here's a screen shot:

(Click the image to see a larger version.)

For a long list (hundreds or thousands of UPC codes) the process can take some time to complete, so I also threw in a little feature I've been doing when run times last more than a few seconds -- a little progress bar screen. It's essentially another normally hidden tab in the file that appears during run time to show the user how far along they are. Looks cool, too, I don't mind saying:

(Click the image to see a larger version.)

Ian, hope the file's everything you were hoping for.

Excel_Geek Insiders, your copy of the file's on it's way.