Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Macro Noodles

Fun Fact:

To date, Singapore has eight mass rapid transit (MRT) train lines with countless light rapid transit (LRT) trolly lines trekking through the country. Did you know that on at least two MRT lines--and all of LRT lines--run trains with no drivers? The trains are fully automated and no conductor is present on the trains during transit runs. The train is programmed to stop precisely at the station aligning with the station doors and automatically detects alighting and boarding passengers. To me, I find that a bit offsetting, especially when there is a female voice announcing any upcoming train stations, yet no human is actually there...but that's technology for ya!

On a random note, here is a funny joke that my Singaporean grad student supervisor once told me:

Question: "What do you call the heaviest noodle in the world?"


Answer: A wonton noodle.

...and we're back! That random digression was much needed as the following monologue may very well be sleep-inducing. Computer techs, on the other hand, might find it captivating, who knows. Let's begin: This whole drive for machine power over manpower wouldn't have solid ground if it weren't for the flexibility and scripted nature of computer systems. What do I mean by this? I am talking about the machines with random access memory that can be written and rewritten to suit the needs of man--or woman :) --at will through programs. Programmable trains are examples (it kind of reminds me of those toy trains I loved so much as a child!), and of course our computers all show the increase in efficiency due to the human will to create such systems. Another example stems from my research where I experimented with macros on excel sheets to speed up my work in the lab. As mentioned--in meticulous detail--before, the laboratory I worked in Singapore was very efficient, so any constructive short route was preferred.

Macros are essentialy mini programs that are commanded by english-based coding to extrapolate and manipulate data. These programs can be used in many data processing systems, such as excel and even online video games. Surprisingly, macro programming is a really fun and quite simple to learn, but it has a stained reputation because of its heavy usage in spam emails, video game cheat bots, and even malware that can attack computer hardware. You may be familiar with those wierd and colorful number and letter security codes that you have to type during some online logins--yup, those are designed to stop macro bots. I started looking on the internet for simple macro codes to understand the general language, and from there I modified the codes to create new commands. Advanced macro programmers can type coding that goes on for pages--mines are only a few lines.

My first little project involved creating a cell counter on excel that acted as an on-screen calculator that I can use in conjuction with an imaging program to count algae cells. My next task is to sync this counter with that imaging program so that the program automatically calculates the cell count given certain parameters currently unavailable. That's one macro noodle!

(Little tangent: During the birth of this blog, I was chewing bubble gum, made in Japan, while I typing in Singapore. Why is this a significant moment? Because gum is technically banned in Singapore. My current goal is to chew and dispose before a guard sees me. I know, I'm an addict.)


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