Binary, hexadecimal, colors, and 3D

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Today we had what felt like a very successful class.  We’ve been working on 3D topics, so I started by explaining about different 3D technology like anaglyph, polarized filters, and the processing by the eyes and brain (3D with only one eye).  We used the XOs to take some stereographic images and started trying to convert these to anaglyph (red/blue) 3D images.  We took a theoretical break this time to talk about how pictures are represented in computer files.  First, I had the kids define what a picture is.  The definition they came up with is that a picture is a organization of colors into shapes to represent something so it can be saved for later.  Then I asked the kids how the computer knows what colors are.  The kids were familiar with mixing paints, so I explained the difference between mixing colored pigments and mixing colored light.  Then I had the kid figure out how colors could be specified as numbers.  They seemed to understand how colors could be specified as numerical amounts of basic colors (read, green, and blue).  But then, I tried to challenge them a bit more by asking how they can represent numbers in terms of 1’s and 0’s.  This is the part that kind of surprised me how well they picked it up.  Even one of the kids that had trouble with fractions in school even seemed to get it (maybe we should start kids out with number theory instead of fractions and multiplication tables–I hated multiplication tables when I was a kid).  To get them started, I used the old joke about there being 10 kinds of people in the world, those that understand binary, and those that done (10 in binary is 2 in decimal).  Part of what was easy for them is that it was just enumerating binary and then showing them the same thing for hexadecimal, only up to 17.  Then I had them google “hexadecimal color” and they found the familiar triplet of 2 digit hexadecimal color codes.  I had them google it because I don’t like giving away the answer without doing some work on their part.  To make sure they got it, I made them tell me which of the #123456 digits in the color code represents red, green, and blue (actually it’s pretty easy that 12 are red, 34 are green, and 56 are blue–the same order one would expect–but having them compare the colors in the palette with the numerical code was a kind of hands on thing that made them see how the colors can mix).  I got into a slightly more advanced topic, that each color scale has 256 (0-255) values, but only some people got the fact that FF (hex) == 255 (decimal).

Decimal to binary to hexadecimal conversion is easy if you go step-by-step, just adding one to the previous number:

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Color codes and the color palette: connecting the dots/pixels 🙂

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OLPC Sighted in the Wild

Last week we brought the OLPC’s to Kenneth Hahn Park in Baldwin Hills.  The computers played a limited role of documenting the hike through the park in pictures.   The kids were surprised to learn that there were a number of edible plants like pink pepper and fennel/lincorice.  There was also some  wild cotton, sage, and California sagebrush, a.k.a. Cowboy Cologne, a number of bugs, and sweeping vistas of the city.

View above La Cienega

All the pictures above were from the OLPC.  Below are some others from phones:

TamTamMini, TamTamJam, SynthLab and OLPC at Audubon Middle School

I went in to my first day volunteering at the Famli after school program at Audubon Middle School knowing very little about OLPC, so I asked the kids to show me their  favorite programs.  TamTamMini and TamTamJam were two of the programs they showed me and it was pretty impressive how much they already new about the programs.  I was a little frustrated because on the OLPC there are no help pages incorporated with the applications (there is documentation online, but I was looking for the familiar help on the menu bar).  But soon after I was pressing random buttons and clicking things and figuring things out like a kid. I also played around with the synth lab b/c the icon (sine wave) caught my dsp (digital signal processing) attention.  This application I understood better b/c I’m familiar with dsp and I worked on the clam project which uses a similar network metaphor for the signal processing components.

For all the benefits of the hands-on approach, the programs have complexities that really require some explanation.  Caryl, to the rescue, provided me with some useful links that I will post here for future reference.

The following link is a video that introduces TamTamMini.  The main non-intuitive thing was which keys on the xo map to which piano keys.  Also I noticed that the version on the video seems to be different because on my xo there’s no sound patches from synthlab :

The following link is a wiki page that gives an overview of this family of programs (TamTamMini, TamTamJam, TamTamEdit and SynthLab):

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/TamTam

The following link has kids giving a recital using TamTamMini:

The following has an orchestra of xo’s… Hey where’s my lab coat?

Well, I think it will be fun playing with these programs with the kids.  Some of them already play instruments and music is a part of Torre’s curriculum.  I think that once I figure out SynthLab, I’ll be able to explain some acoustics and phonetics to the kids.