A Guide to Using SDR-Console V3 for Accessing and Creating Remote Servers

Jon Hudson, head of marketing at SDRplay has recently released a helpful tutorial that shows how to access remote servers in SDR-Console V3, and also how to set up your own server too. As you may already know, SDR-Console V3 provides a remote server platform which allows you to access all sorts of SDR hardware remotely over a network connection or over the internet. Some SDR hardware owners even opt to share their radio hardware publicly over the internet for anyone to access. The video description reads:

This video is a screen-by-screen guide to both accessing, and setting up your own, remote SDR radio using the new (Feb 2018) SDR Console V3 software from SDR-Radio. Although the guide uses an RSP2 from SDRplay, this will work with all the popular SDRs

Please note - you need to have a good internet connection since (unlike in V2), the entire I/Q data is being sent over the internet. This also limits how much visual bandwidth you are can see at any one time.

Links referenced in this video:
www.sdr-radio.com
http://www.sdr-radio.com/Software/Version3/Server
www.sdrplay.com
More videos on https://www.youtube.com/c/SDRplayRSP

SOME IMPORTANT WARNINGS IF YOU ARE ADDING YOUR OWN SDR!
Be careful not to plug multiple SDRs into a single USB2 socket - for multiple SDRs, you may need a powered hub ( like this: https://www.amazon.co.uk/UGREEN-Adapt... )

Once you are up and running - please go to http://www.sdr-radio.com/Software/Ver... and view your listing - if there is a yellow triangle, then you are not accessible outside your own firewall - attention is needed! Just because you can access it on your own LAN doesn't mean it's accessible via the internet!!!

The RSP family of SDRs from SDRplay cover 1kHz to 2 GHz with no gaps and give up to 10MHz spectrum visibility.

Jon's video first shows how to use SDR-Console V3 to access those publicly shared SDR radios over the internet. The second part of the video demonstrates how to set up your own server that you can use remotely for personal use, or to share over the internet.

The SDR-Console V3 server accepts various kinds of SDR hardware including RTL-SDR, Airspy, SDRplay, HackRF, Elad, LimeSDR and many more SDR units so this is a good way to explore various types of hardware, or simply to explore signals from different areas around the world.

Decoding Morse Code and Weather Faxes with an RTL-SDR

Over on the YouTube channel Tech Minds the presenter has uploaded two new RTL-SDR based tutorial videos. The first video gives a bit of background and shows how to decode Morse code with an RTL-SDR. He uses SDR-Console V3 and the Morse code decoder CwGet. With this he's able to decode a few calls from some ham radio operators.

In the second video Tech Minds shows how to decode Weather Fax with the RTL-SDR. Weather faxes are images of weather charts sent over HF frequencies. In the video he uses SDR-Console and SeaTTY to do the decoding and demonstrates reception of an example fax.

The GNU Radio Signals Challenge is now Live

GNU Radio have today released their latest 'Signal Challenge'. This is an online competition that contains three digital signal processing related problems. They write:

At 1222 EST on 21 Feb 2018, we posted a new signals challenge! There are *three* different challenges hidden in this signal capture, and the solution to each is a text message. One is on the easier side, and the two others are more advanced. If you believe you have found a solution, DM the answer to @gnuradio on Twitter or e-mail [email protected]!

The first THREE people to solve each of the three challenges will be declared winners. There will be nine winners in total. One person can only win one challenge; if correct solutions are submitted for multiple challenges, the first will count as the win.

The winners will receive honor and glory, plus some awesome GNU Radio stickers!

Good luck, and Happy Hacking!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-bAdy_egdyb6xPA8rrvf32WgnDTSI29P/view?usp=sharing

More information and any updates can be found on their Twitter @gnuradio. Good luck to anyone participating!

LimeSDR Mini Unboxing and Initial Review

The LimeSDR Mini has now started shipping out to backers, and we received our unit just last week. The LimeSDR Mini is the smaller version of the full sized LimeSDR which was released early last year in 2017. The standard LimeSDR has a frequency range of 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz, bandwidth of up to 61.44 MHz, 12-bit ADC and 2 x 2 RX/TX channels. In comparison the new LimeSDR mini has a slightly restricted frequency range of 10 MHz – 3.5 GHz, and half the maximum bandwidth at 30.72 MHz. The mini also only has 1 x 1 TX/RX channels. The price is however much less coming in at US$99 for the mini and US$299 for the standard LimeSDR.
 
In this post we’ll give a brief unboxing and review of the LimeSDR Mini. If you’re interested take a look at our previous unboxing and initial review of the standard LimeSDR as well.

Unboxing

The LimeSDR Mini came in a small black box inside an anti-static bag. No accessories like antennas are included in the package. The PCB comes without any enclosure, but an enclosure can be ordered as an additional extra. The size of the PCB is similar to an RTL-SDR, but a little wider. The RF sensitive components are covered with a shielding can. Removing the can reveals the main Lime System RF chip, the LMS7002M, as well as several RF transformer matching circuits.
 
One end of the PCB has a standard USB-A connector, whilst the other end has two SMA ports, one for receiving and the other for transmitting.
limesdrmini_box2
limesdrmini_box3
limesdrmini_box4

 

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SDR# Plugin: FFT Window Screen Grabber

Recently Eddie MacDonald has been pumping out simple but useful plugins for SDR# including the SDR# Dark Mode and Visual Tuner Knob plugins. Recently he released a new plugin called "FFT Window Screen Grabber". This plugin simply helps you to easily take a screenshot of the FFT and waterfall displays in SDR#. It could be a useful plugin if you are constantly finding interesting signals that you want to document, or upload to sigidwiki.com.

The plugin can be downloaded from his thread in our forums.

FFT Window Screen Grabber example screenshot
FFT Window Screen Grabber example screenshot

Outernet 3.0: Implementation Details and a 71,572km LoRa World Record

Outernet Dreamcatcher Board running with an LNB
Outernet Dreamcatcher Board running with a cheap satellite TV LNB

Outernet 3.0 is gearing up for launch soon, and just today they've released a blog post introducing us to the RF protocol technology behind the new service. If you weren't already aware, Outernet is a free satellite based information service that aims to be a sort of 'library in the sky'. Their aim to to have satellites constantly broadcasting down weather, news, books, radio, web pages, and files to everyone in the world. As it's satellite based this is censorship resistant, and useful for remote/marine areas without or with slow/capped internet access.

Originally a few years ago they started with a 12 GHz DVB-S satellites service that gave 1GB of content a day, but that service required a large dish antenna which severely hampered user adoption. Their second attempt was with an L-band service that only needed a small patch antenna. This service used RTL-SDR dongles as the receiver, so it was very cheap to set up. Unfortunately the L-band service had a very slow data rates (less than 20MB of content a day), and leasing an L-band transmitter on a satellite proved to be far too expensive for Outernet to continue with. Both these services have now been discontinued.

Outernet 3.0 aims to fix their previous issues, giving us a service that provides over 300MB of data a day, with a relatively cheap US$99 receiver that is small and easy to set up. The new receiver uses a standard Ku-Band LNB as the antenna, which is very cheaply available as they are often used for satellite TV reception. The receiver itself is a custom PCB containing a hardware (non-SDR based) receiver with a LoRa decoder.

LoRa is an RF protocol that is most often associated with small Internet of Things (IoT) devices, but Outernet have chosen it as their satellite protocol for Outernet 3.0 because it is very tolerant to interference. In Outernet 3.0 the LNB is pointed directly at the satellite without any directive satellite dish, meaning that interference from other satellites can be a problem. But LoRa solves that by being tolerant to interference. From the uplink facility to the satellite and back to their base in Chicago the LoRa signal travels 71,572 km, making it the longest LoRa signal ever transmitted.

According to notes in their forums Outernet 3.0 is going to be first available only in North America. Europe should follow shortly after, and then eventually other regions too. When ready, their 'Dreamcatcher 3.0' receiver and computing hardware is expected to be released for US$99 on their store. You can sign up for their email list on that page to be notified upon release.

Also as a bonus, for those interested in just LoRa, the Dreamcatcher 3.0 is also going to be able to transmit LoRa at frequencies anywhere between 1 MHz to 6 GHz, making it great for setting up long range LoRa links. This might be an interesting idea for hams to play with.

The Outernet 3.0 'Dreamcatcher' Receiver.
The Outernet 3.0 'Dreamcatcher' Receiver.

Antennas for Receiving Shortwave Indoors with an SDR

Over on the swling.com blog admin Thomas has been exploring various indoor antenna options for pairing with an HF capable software defined radio. He notes that unless you happen to live in isolation, you're highly likely to experience RFI problems with standard wire antennas. Instead he recommends looking into magnetic loop antennas which are significantly more resistant to urban electric field based RFI noise, and they can also be rotated to null out any other local noise sources. Thomas then goes on to highlight some of the best commercial magnetic loop options for sale. There is also some good advice in the comments section.

We note that magnetic loop antenna seem to work fairly well with the RTL-SDR in V3 in direct sampling mode, but you may need to filter out the broadcast AM band to avoid overload if the loop doesn't do this already.

An example small PK-Loop antenna for receiving shortwave with an SDR.
An example small PK-Loop antenna for receiving shortwave with an SDR.

RTLSDR-Airband V3 Released

Thanks to RTL-SDR.com reader Lee Donaghy for writing in and little us know that RTLSDR-Airband was recently updated to include SoapySDR support. This allows the software to now work with almost any SDR including the RTL-SDR, Airspy, SDRplay, HackRF, LimeSDR and more. They have also removed the 8-channels per device limitation and applied various bug fixes too. The full changelog is posted at the end of this post.

RTLSDR-Airband is a Linux based command line tool that allows you to simultaneously monitor multiple AM or FM channels per SDR within the same chunk of bandwidth. It is great for monitoring narrowband communications such as aircraft control and can be used to feed websites like liveatc.net, or for use with a Icecast server, or simply for continuously recording multiple channels to an MP3 file locally. It is also very useful for those running on low powered computing hardware who want software that uses less CPU power than a full GUI program like GQRX or CubicSDR.

Version 3.0.0 (Feb 10, 2018):

  • Major overhaul of the SDR input code - now it's modular and hardware-agnostic (no longer tightly coupled with librtlsdr).
  • Support for SoapySDR vendor-neutral SDR library - any SDR which has a plugin for SoapySDR shall now work in RTLSDR-Airband.
  • Support for Mirics DVB-T dongles via libmirisdr-4 library.
  • Support for RTLSDR is now optional and can be disabled at compilation stage.
  • Removed the 8-channels-per-device limit in multichannel mode.
  • Configurable per-device sampling rate.
  • Configurable FFT size.
  • Support for multibyte input samples.
  • Support for rawfile outputs (ie. writing raw I/Q data from a narrowband channel to a file for processing with other programs, line GNUradio or csdr).
  • INCOMPATIBLE CHANGE: removed rtlsdr_buffers global configuration option; buffer count can now be adjusted with a per-device "buffers" option.
  • INCOMPATIBLE CHANGE: removed syslog global configuration option; syslog logging is now enabled by default, both in foreground and background mode. To force logging to standard error, use -e command line option.
  • Added -F command line option for better cooperation with systemd. Runs the program in foreground, but without textual waterfalls. Together with -e it allows running rtl_airband as a service of type "simple" under systemd. Example rtl_airband.service file has been adjusted to reflect this change.
  • Added type device configuration option. It sets the device type (ie. the input driver which shall be used to talk to the device). "rtlsdr" is assumed as a default type for backward compatibility. If RTLSDR support has been disabled at compilation stage, then there is no default type - it must be set manually, or the program will throw an error on startup.
  • Frequencies in the config can now be expressed in Hz, kHz, MHz or GHz for improved readability.
  • Lots of bugfixes.
  • Rewritten documentation on Github Wiki.