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By: The Rapture
June 6, 2016
Tutorial: An Introduction to Software Defined Radio
By: The Rapture
June 6, 2016
Introduction:Hey Cybrarians! I bought a USB Software Defined Radio (SDR) dongle last year at DerbyCon and hadn't really had the chance to play with it until the other day. It was a lot of fun to explore all of the different signals that you can pick up with one of these dongles, so I thought I'd write up a little tutorial on how I set up my stuff.Disclaimer: I have no idea what's legal in your part of the world, and I'd recommend you check what you undertake is legal. In my area (Midwest USA), everything I'm doing is legal to the best of my knowledge, as I am not interfering with anything. I'm also not an expert in anything related to radio signals, so take it easy guys/gals who know a lot about the subject. I'm learning this stuff as I go along. It's completely new to me, so it's like an adventure that you get to join me on - if you want. =)Also, as for the method I use in this tutorial- there may be better ways to do this, but this is what I personally set up and it works great for me. A few notes for this guide:I'm using a specific SDR device (RTL2832U), so I'll only be covering how to set up this particular device in this tutorial. Yet, I imagine it wouldn’t be too much different to set this all up with a different device.I'm also using Ubuntu 16.04 LTS on a VM in VMware Workstation Player. You could run Ubuntu 16.04LTS on your machine natively or perhaps via a USB dongle. For for this guide, I'll be running it in a VM. Devices:
- There are all kinds of devices out there to choose from. From the cheap 10-20 dollar ones up to the expensive 1000+ dollar ones.
- There are multiple reasons for this, but the main one is the device's ability to receive (RX) and its ability to transmit (TX) signals.
- Some devices can only receive signals (like the one that I'll be using in this tutorial), while others can both receive and transmit signals.
- The devices that can do both can be further broken down into full or half duplex devices (This may sound familiar to some of you Network+ peeps). Full duplex devices can transmit and receive signals at the same time, while half duplex can only do one or the other at a time. I am sure there are more kinds of devices out there, but so far, these are the ones I have learned about.
- The device that I am using for this tutorial is the RTL2832U. The cheapest I was able to find it was $10.29 (USD) on Amazon, as shown in the screenshot below.
- If you want another source, you can pick it up at the Hak.5 shop here: http://hakshop.myshopify.com/collections/wireless-gear/products/software-defined-radio-mobile-kit
- Once you have Ubuntu installed and ready to go, follow the directions below (Source: <http://gqrx.dk/download/install-ubuntu> )
- For Ubuntu 14.04 – 16.04, you can choose to use packages from our own personal package archive (PPA) where you can get the latest version of Gqrx for Ubuntu and derivatives. This PPA depends on a few other third party package archives to provide the latest SDR drivers and GNU Radio packages.
- To start using the PPA, first make sure that you don't have any other source or binary installation of gqrx, gnuradio or the SDR driver libraries installed:
sudo apt-get purge --auto-remove gqrxsudo apt-get purge --auto-remove gqrx-sdr
- You should now remove the gqrx/releases or gqrx/snapshots PPA from the list of repositories/package source if you've been using these.
- Then, add the new repositories to the package manager by typing the following in a terminal – one line at a time (note the version-specific line):
sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:bladerf/bladerf (for Ubuntu 14.04 - 15.10 only)sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:ettusresearch/uhdsudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:myriadrf/driverssudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:myriadrf/gnuradiosudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:gqrx/gqrx-sdrsudo apt-get update
- If that went well without errors, continue with installing gqrx:
sudo apt-get install gqrx-sdr
- You can now find gqrx in the desktop menu, or start it from a terminal, by typing gqrx.
- Once you have installed Gqrx from the PPA, updates will be available through the package manager.
- It's recommended that users also install the libvolk1-bin package and run the volk_profile tool to optimize GNU Radio performance on the specific computer it's being used on.
sudo apt-get install libvolk1-binvolk_profile
- Wait for it to finish, then enjoy the performance boost :-)