Editing Images with PowerPoint

So for about the last year I have been editing images with PowerPoint (wish I had PhotoShop). Initially my first time doing it and for the last year the most advanced I have taken the image work is to take an image of a map and add markers to the map or to make comics.

Some of the things that I made were for laughs and others were more serious to motivate action and safety.

IMG_20150404_172759

 

This latest image was done to create a scene for roleplaying in a mmorpg. Later a map key and location markers will probably be added to the image. It is a blend of two images and then some editing of the images with the tools in PowerPoint.

Reach Valley-1

It is not the neatest edited image I have seen but considering I have minimal experience and no training in the art of editing images and it only used the tools in PowerPoint I think it is a decent fictionary location. The two images used to make these are publically usable images. One was obtained from the federal government and is in the public domain the second image was from wiki commons and used under creative commons 2.0 license, below are the links to the original images:

Portage valley alaska, direct link to image file

From Gondola, Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Description
From Gondola, Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Date 17 October 2005, 08:59:05
Source originally posted to Flickr as Canadian Rockies
Author Ananth BS

The merger was actually fairly easy since it involved cropping, making the sky on one image see through and superimposing one image onto the other and the stretching, inverting, pulling the image to create additional places. The end result is the valley in a mass of mountains.Removing the sky and stretching the images were probably the most time consuming portions. The sky existed with several colors and an uneven horizon. PowerPoint only allows the removal of a single color from an image at a time. This leaves at least three fairly easy approaches to eliminate the sky and get a nice horizon. You can see in the image above where some of the tips of the mountains on the left have little grey blobs, that is left over sky and with bit more patience it could also have been removed.

The first way to remove sky (the easiest, but ugliest) is to remove one color save edited image as an image reload the edited image and remove another color (it actually just makes it see through), until the sky is removed….this is OK, but if those colors exist in other parts of the image then you may remove additional wanted portions. You can some what correct for this by copying a similar portion of the original image and superimposing it on the other image using the copy/paste functions.

The second approach is a way to accidental removal (which is slightly more tedious) is to draw with a color not in the image (I like to use pink) an outline of what you would like to hide, then fill in the rest of the hidden part with the same color and like above use the hide command (you might throw the image in paint to draw the pink line as it can be easier than the identical line in PowerPoint, at least for me it is easier).

The third approach (which I used in this image, because I was creating a very specific look to match a written description) is to copy/paste multiples on the same image and stack the identical images on one another then crop them to line up perfectly so you have what appears to be the beginning image but is instead lots of tall thin images. Each of these tall thin images then has the sky cropped as close to the mountain as possible and then like above a single color (the remaining sky) is removed.

The thinner the slices the better quality the ending product. If you would like to reduce the chance of accidental removal of colors even further then you might slice these thin slice horizontally near the mountain line creating a shorter thin image.

These three techniques should allow you to remove practically anything from an image with exceptional quality (not like my hastily done image, remember a higher quality final product will take more time and patience). The image above took about 20-30 minutes of actual editing work plus time to find images that I could use and would produce the desired final product.

By using the color eliminator (making that color transparent) and then overlapping the back ground horizon under the valley pick and sending the horizon image to the back the two images were overlapped.

The second trick utilized in order to produce this fictionary location was to stretch and invert various portions of the image. In power point if you take an image and pull one edge to the other and keep going, then it will flip the image. By doing this twice and stretching (total of three images) you can create seamless borders and expand an area indefinantly without hurting the quality of the image like you might by stretching it too far ( I did too little of this and too much stretching in my image, and it can be seen if you look closely).

Like above you will want to copy/paste then crop to create either horizontal or vertical slices (only do one or the other at a time, otherwise the complexity will increase dramatically). When you finish on and wish to do the other you can select all of the smaller images “save as image” then load the modified image and keep going.

In the above image, for the purpose of speed I did some over stretching, ideally you would only “stretch” it to a smaller size (thus protecting the quality) but you can get away with limited enlargement stretching if you begin with high resolution images. Sometimes you will also need to be aware of the objects in the image as well, some lines (like roads in a landscape image) are quite distinctive and may show what you did to create the image.

By using image flipping and multiple images and slicing and stretching you can highly customize an entire image. Obviously, like so many things in life the more practice you have (not much for me with photo editing) the better you get at the task.

Magicka v Spellpower Calculator TESO:TU

This is a calculator to help a poster in the linked thread from The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (TESO:TU) forums. Should a new formula be found or implemented please submit the new information in the contact box to the right with a link to the source information. If the source verifies we will update the calculator to reflect the new information. Also if you have a request for a similar calculator please use the contact box and if it can be built we will build it for you.

[CP_CALCULATED_FIELDS id=”58″]

[CP_CALCULATED_FIELDS id=”59″]

Essentially another player provided the conversion ratio in the linked thread. This calculator does the math for you.  The proposed ratio was 10.46 magicka = 1 spell power and that is the current equation for this calculator.

Harming the Environment and Wasting Tax Dollars!

Yesterday, I went hiking with my three boys (8, 5, 1). Since we had the youngest with us we took the Bob stroller and hit it off into the trails around then local highschool. This is the same area where we found Moss Man last fall. I had thought about writing a post about Moss Man but perhaps I’ll just share the video.

No, we didn’t make said Moss Man and we don’t know who did. We just walked through the woods and found him.

 

Anyways, Moss Man is on the shorter loop (a mile to a mile and a half) which is the route we usually take (the kids do better on shorter hikes). Yesterday I let the boys pick which route we would take and they picked the long loop (about 3-5 miles).  These loops are around the highschool for the Town of Signal Mountain. The trails are located on what’s called Shackleford Ridge and they link in to the Cumberland trail system which links into the Appalachian trail. So, a few wrong turns and you’re on your way from Tennessee to Canada (after 6 months of living on the trail…).

The cool thing about these particular loops that we hike on (at least if you have kids) is that they go around the highschool, middle school, elementary school and the associated sports facilities (4 soccer fields, 3 baseball fields, and two football fields) plus the student and staff parking.  This is great if you’re hiking with kids and may possibly need to find a shortcut back to civilization if a child gets exhausted and wants to call it quits.

Surprise, surprise, the 5 year old for exhausted and on this particular hike we were on the opposite end on the trail system. We found a quick exit to the road and then cut across the baseball fields, through the student parking then the staff parking. Finally, we had to go around the school building itself. There are two ways to go the short way (through grass) or the long way (on the road around the school).

You guessed it we took the grass by this time it is about 5:30 PM and school has been out for about 2 hours. The grass is beautifully landscaped and we turned a corner and low and behold there is a ground level window….wide open. My first thought, probably from 10 years in law enforcement, was wow that’s not very secure…instantly I thought of people climbing in the window and either vandalizing the place or stealing whatever they could grab.

Now, I’ve mentioned in other posts that I have recently completed a M.S. in Environmental Science and as a result my kids and I frequently talk about environmental topics. My oldest son’s first thought (and my second thought) was wow that’s wasting a lot of electricity. This lights appeared to be off in the classroom and the window wide open. We looked around the building a bit more and located two additional windows (these on the second floor). That were also connected to apparently empty classrooms and wide open.

The bottom line is that teachers should be role models for ideal behavior for kids. They should be concerned about safe practices that secure the building and they should do environmentally sound in classroom practices. I hope this was just an isolated incident at my local school and not a national environmental plague and an unnexessary waste of tax dollars. We hike frequently at this location so I plan to pay more careful attention in the future. Hopefully this was an isolated incident but if not I will likely we writing a letter to the board of education. I did not manage to get photos of this event but I will try to remember to next time (if there is a next time).

Online Car Auto Calculator MPG Savings

This calculator will calculate the monetary savings in gasoline when purchasing a more fuel effecient vehicle. I am using this strategy to purchase a more effecient car essentially free. The idea is that I currently drive a gas hog and I am waiting until car/vehicle/automobile gasoline effeciency (MPG) and their purchase prices and gasoline costs create a favorable position where I can purchase and fuel a new car for the price of fueling my old car. To do so I focus on “No Interest for 60 month!” deals. Then plug in the info into the calculator. A savings greater than the cost of the car over the length of the loan = a win. When gas was $4.00 a gallon I was very close to achieving this. Also as the purchase cost of hybrid and electric vehicles decreases and their effeciency increases I get closer to this happening. The default numbers compare my Ford Crown Victoria to a Toyota Prius Base model 2015

Well enough talking here is the online auto savings calculator:

[CP_CALCULATED_FIELDS id=”57″]

Cost Per Item Calculator

Have you ever been to the store shopping and you saw an item on the shelf and there are many different brands packages sizes and quantities? Which one is really the best deal? Well this calculator will help you easily compare the actual cost per unit of similar items when shopping at: the grocery store, the hardware store, the office supply store, the pet store or any other store. Read below the calculator for directions.

[CP_CALCULATED_FIELDS id=”56″]

Here is what you need.

  1. A common unit that both items have. This can be ounces (oz), pounds (lbs), milliliters (ml), grams (g), kilograms (kg), quantity (how many total), sheets (like printer paper or toilet paper), feet e(ft), meters (m), inches (in), centimeters (cm) or any other length (such as when buys rope, extension cords, wire, fence, boards, length of Christmas light cords, groceries), really this will work for comparing price on anything with a common unit (often the common unit can be derived, maybe later I will make those calculators) and finding the real bargains .
  2. A price on each item to be compared. This can be dollars, cents, pounds, francs, Eurodollars, rupees, yen, bitcoins, video game currency, or any other form or currency. Just make sure both items are using the same currency.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Name the item (optional).
  2. Put the unit (quantity, length etc..) in the correct box for each item.
  3. Put the total purchase price for the item into the correct box.
  4. I have included enough spaces to compare up to five items at once.

Hopefully this calculator will save you some money or at least help you make an informed purchase decision.

You can even figure out the price with coupons simply use the total quantity from the coupon purchase and the total price with the coupon applied to quickly calculate the price per unit.

Grind Spot Calculator (rate per hour)

This is a calculator to help players of games to compare multiple locations and to effectively determine which location is best and nost effecient to achieve their goals. It is anticipated that this will be used for mmorpgs and other video games but it can also be used to quantify any activity (such as moves in chess, cars washed, miles per hour jogged over a known distance or widgets produced) to an hourly rate. Below the calculator you can find directions if needed.

Note: the longer your time the more accurate your result will be.


[CP_CALCULATED_FIELDS id=”55″]Above is a calculator and a stopwatch. Simply enter your starting values in the calculator (these can be experience, gold, epic loot drops, dungeon runs, or any other quantifiable metric where you can determine a start and a finish value). For simplicity I will speak about experience.

 

  1. Enter your experience at the beginning.
  2. Click start on the stopwatch.
  3. Grind like crazy.
  4. Stop the stopwatch.
  5. Check your new experience value
  6. Enter your new experience value into the calculator
  7. Look at the timer, there are 3 pairs of large numbers and some small numbers. These are (from left to right) hours, minutes, seconds and milliseconds.
  8. Enter the hours, minutes and seconds into the appropriately marked boxes in the calculator
  9. The calculator will provide a value this is how many experience you would gain from one hour of this grinding location/activity.
  10. There are pairs of boxes below these allow you to enter different location names and the rate per hour that you achieved at multiple locations for comparison.
  11. Record your value in the provided box and label it in the provided box so that you can remember what that value corresponds with.
  12. Travel to a new location.
  13. Click reset on the Timer
  14. Remove the old timer values and start and end experience values from the calculator.
  15. Record your new start experience
  16. Click start
  17. Follow the same process you did previously to get your first value.
  18. Record the value in the next slot
  19. There is space to compare up to 10 locations
  20. Do not refresh or exit the webpage the values you enter are not recorded and you will have to redo any grinds that you lost information about. (You may wish to just use the timer and calculator and record your end values in a word processor or with pen and paper).

Hopefully this calculator helps you find the best grindspot with the least effort and minimal math. To suggest changes please use the contact us box.

February 2015 Monthly Report

This is, as the title suggests, the monthly progress report for February 2015. This is the month where I became re-motivated in my mission to make this work. January was a poor month as far as performance goes and the the previous five months had not even earned a penny. I ran ads the entire time and tried to build organic traffic with no success. Even worse I had set it down and was only checking about once a week to see if any of my advertisements had done anything. Well one day in February I logged on and had earned a commission on a sale (maybe it had finally been long enough for the site to start ranking I’m not sure).

Whatever the reason the sound of a few pennies dropping into a bucket after hundreds of hours of work was satisfying. It has motivated me to continue working on the site. After making this first commission I became energized and wrote a few more articles.

These articles were not very important in the scheme of things if I am to be blatantly honest. However, they did draw my attention to the website. This was paramount that I was motivated and paying attention to the site.

What happened next was more of an accident. I was playing a video game and trolling the forums (ok I’m not really a troll, usually, I provide valuble input). Some of the guys (or gals, who knows) were playing around with a brand new system in the game. They had collected a handfull of data points and were attempting to figure out the formula behind the numbers (backwards derivation).

When I came across this (keep in mind I’ve taken 5 college courses,3 in graduate school, and 1 in highschool in statistics). I instantly knew that I could solve the problem and help people out. Naturally I did, I like helping people, and I posted the info on the forum. Unfortunately, it was rather complicated to explain. I figured well heck they do not have to know how it works to use it…they just need a calculator to do it for them. They can simply enter the independant variables and the calculator will provide the solution.

So I made the calculator and people liked it…so I made more calculators and people liked those as well. Now in the previous report I showed may tarffic from September to January. January had about 250 page views for the entire month a February was looking much the same. Then it changed google started pumping traffic like crazy to me (some people say that it takes about 6 months for content to rank which was about this same time, and lots of fresh new content). In any case traffic on my old pages increased and traffic on the new pages was solid.

September 2014 to February 2015 website traffic.
September 2014 to February 2015 website traffic.

Now keep in mind the bulk of that increase occurred over about a two week period and is partially a result of a sub reddit forum trending.  Needless to say I was very happy seeing this increase in traffic. I attribute about 50% of this to the calculators from looking at the real numbers and the other 50% to older content and some newer content.

An initiative I quickly took upon realizing that a significant portion of my web traffic came from the video game community is to begin reviewing some products for thatcommunity, namely computer peripheral devices.

Financials:

Profit

Advertising & Commissions – $1.97

Expenses

None

Total: -$18.03

So..yeah still in the red after hundreds of hours and half a year of work. This could be the blog to inspire you to not start a website. Fortunately, I am very stubborn so you can continue to read about my lack of success. I really am pumped about the traffic increase this month and casually optimistic that things may improve going forward. If I achieve the goal of the website self funding itself by the end of the year then I have a few other projects I might start working on while I continue this project.