Doing weekly meetings is a blessing and a curse, it’s a blessing in that it keeps you active and engaged, but it’s a curse when that activity becomes a baseline that most never cross again. It requires time, dedication, and lots of sweat to propose, research and plan trips. It also requires still more time, dedication and effort to document it.

However, on a fine Saturday, BigSAC met up for a little road-trip. The meeting location was REI’s store in Arcadia, CA. It is central ot the San Gabriel Valley, and located just down the street from our beloved Santa Anita Canyon. This location was mostly chosen out of convenience, they sell USFS Adventure Passes (needed to park in the ANF). This was the first time many of us had been to an REI in many years, for a long time they ceased selling climbing equipment, and stopped carrying camelbak. Either way, after showcasing a few items some of us were considering we bought our Passes and left.

Two cars and a motorbike made the next 31 miles of the trip uneventfully and met at the Redbox turn off parking lot where Hwy 2 was closed for a rock slide further up the road.

This didn’t matter, as we were headed towards Mt Wilson anyways (up Redbox Road). A few moments later we were greeted by the collection of large and impressive radio towers that provide much of the Broadcast FM Radio and TV signals for the Los Angeles Basin. Driving around the loop that surrounded the broadcast structures, we were greeted by the gate to Mt Wilson Observatory. We parked in the lot and walked up towards Cosmic Cafe. It was about then that the altitude hit us, and the slog up the stairs to the pavilion level was a bit labored, but we made it.

The Pavilion level offered a good view of the antenna structures on the western side of Mt Wilson.

Stunning views of the Los Angeles basin, the rest of Mt Wilson, and also seeing further into the Angeles National Forest were all offered from the pavilion. We had a quick bite of lunch from the Cosmic Cafe, which offers a limited, but very well executed menu. (Hot dogs, a few basic sandwiches, and chili) We purchased our tour tickets and spent about half an hour looking at things, talking and drinking iced tea.

The tour started rather promptly at 1pm, about 10 people were in the tour. The first several stops were all about the history of the location, rather than get into detail here, go read about it on their site. The first major stop was the “150 foot solar telescope”. It’s worth noting that the “150 foot” is the focal length not the dimension of the primary mirror or lens. This thing is quite large and impressive!

We were allowed inside to view some of the equipment and see the output of the telescope. Like most telescopes designed for serious science, this telescope was built on top of a large spectrometer that was as large as the above-ground section. Seen on the table near the hand control, there is a covered area, which an eyepiece fits on that allows direct observation of the spectrometer output.

Next up was the 60” Reflector, which was the largest telescope in the world while the 100” telescope was still under construction. The primary use of this telescope was for studying globular clusters, and was also one of the first attempts at establishing the size of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The final stop of the tour was the 100” Telescope. The historical significance of this scope cannot be understated. While the 60” was critical in establishing the groundwork that was later performed on the 100”, the 100” changed humanity’s understanding of the universe. Hubble, in establishing that “Nebulae” were actually distant galaxies played into the discoveries that were going on at the time after the publication of Einstein’s equations for Relativity and Special Relativity, and set the groundwork for observational and much of the theoretical cosmology that has come since. As a device that is now well over 100 years old, there is little about it that isn’t impressive. Even the scale is massive.

This is where the tour concluded. We chatted with the tour guide for a bit about some of the specifics of the facilities and the instruments. If you are planning a trip that takes you anywhere near this fascinating and historic site, it is worth checking out their Event Calendar to see if there is an event that meets your interest. Even the basic tour is highly recommended, if not for seeing the instruments, but also for the views.



BigSAC ARC will be conducting a field trip and tour of Mt Wilson Observatory Saturday 8/24/19.

Costs: USFS Angeles Adventure Pass ($5/day $30/yr), Mt Wilson Observatory Tickets ($15/person)


Anyone interested in attending should arrange a ride prior to showing up. We will be meeting at REI Arcadia at 10:30am, taking a quick look around the store, purchasing USFS Angeles Adventure Passes (which are required to park at Mt Wilson Observatory), the cost is $5 for a day pass, or $30 for a year.

At 11am, we will load up and leave, headed for Mt Wilson, the drive is expected to take about an hour. Park in the main lot, and then head for Cosmic Cafe where if you didn’t get a Adventure Pass you may buy one, also we will be having lunch and purchasing tour tickets. Tour starts at 1pm.



There are no pre-arranged comm frequencies for this event.



There has been a rather long-running struggle for some of us to really adopt open-source from start to finish. For a while this was fairly easy as many requirements weren’t that intensive, the basics of having network access, a web-browser, an irc client, and a shell were easily met by distros of linux that were common in the early to mid 1990’s. For a while Linux, BSD, and Solaris were usable as desktops, then that changed as requirements and specialty applications needed to drive hardware and high-end computing applications (CAD, Radio, CNC etc) were needed.

Open Source has been displacing a lot of formerly paid applications, two notable examples, CHiRP and fldigi have been go-to applications for windows, mac and users of select linux distros that had good support for them (Ubuntu being a good example). However, for those of us whose tastes are a bit more ascetic windows XP on older hardware was the common option.

For a while the ascetics have been searching in the darkness, looking to escape both the bloat of Ubuntu, Debian, and Redhat based systems to find something that was more efficient, freeing us of the tyranny of SystemD. Well, this was finally delivered with FreeBSD 12.

Without a lot of time for endless exposition which will be talked about in a later article. A CentOS system was snuffed out, and replaced with a bit of struggle with FreeBSD-Stable (12). After some testing, some starts and stops, a few re-runs of the installation tools, and a few other fights, FreeBSD is up and running, configured, and is running the applications desired with a minimum of fuss.

Here is CHiRP up and running on FreeBSD, Afterstep window manager with some basic tweaks. The best thing here, the programming cable for the UV5R simply worked. There was no need to tweak drivers, serial ports, or other headaches that have often been a problem in the past. Being able to offload administrative overhead just to get work done was kinda’ve a promise that Linux was never able to keep. As soon as you wanted to get away from the recipes in the cookbook, everything went to hell.
After pulling down the settings that were already on the radio, it was re-written with a new codeplug!

Shown here is FLDIGI up and running. No time was put into testing yet, but just getting this far is amazing compared to some previous efforts. Later articles will deal with the setup HOWTO. This is just a victory lap.



Welcome to the web home of the Big Santa Anita Canyon Amateur Radio Club (BigSAC-ARC)!

We are a group of merry pranksters, radio amateurs, electronics experimenters and nature enthusiasts who for some reason have a website. We really don’t have a good reason to have a website, other than it’s a handy thing to use for us to remember to do things, and this is where we can go to brag about it. Maybe some day there will be some real content here, but for the moment at least there isn’t.