A Good Quickstart Guide for RTL-SDR Linux Users

Recently we found this excellent quick start guide by Kenn Ranous which shows how to set up various RTL-SDR related software programs on (Debian) Linux. The guide shows how to install the drivers, how to install and set up GQRX, CubicSDR, dump1090, Virtual Radar Server, QSpectrum Analyzer and SDR Trunk.

If you are struggling with getting an RTL-SDR to work on a Linux system then this should be a very good starting point.

The guide can be found on Kenn’s blog at https://ranous.wordpress.com/rtl-sdr4linux.

rtlsdr_linux_qsg

29 comments

  1. Bob R

    Followed tutorial and installed on BunsenLabs Linux for my RTL-SDR dongle. Only snag was PkgConfig not found.
    Fixed that by installing using command:
    sudo apt-get install pkg-config
    Worked fine after that.

  2. zloboslav

    Hi! Thank you for sharing this information. I followed the instructions on Linux Mint 20.1 and it worked perfectly the first try.
    I’m a beginner both at radio stuff and Linux so I think that the current version of this guide was great!
    So please consider trying and don’t be affected too much by the other comments here, as they are older and probably obsolete now.
    (in comparison following the official Windows guide previously worked after a few attempts, because the driver didn’t want to do its thing and it was hard and frustrating for me to make it work).

  3. Tom Cougar

    This is for the gqrx

    sudo apt-get purge –auto-remove gqrx
    sudo apt-get purge –auto-remove gqrx-sdr
    sudo apt-get purge –auto-remove libgnuradio*
    sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:bladerf/bladerf
    sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:myriadrf/drivers
    sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:myriadrf/gnuradio
    sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:gqrx/gqrx-sdr
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install gqrx-sdr
    sudo apt-get install libvolk1-bin
    volk_profile

  4. Tom Cougar

    libvolk1 is now libvolk2, other than that the above can be scraped together and run as one collective script. Successfully done on three different machines and give or take a warning here or there, everything worked like magic

  5. kristan

    amus.. thats his shit.. jim and mark arent ready to comprehend they can create their own better system! you take it easy and its obvious it aint ‘terminal’ for them ha. good luck dude let go of their ways make your own sweet ride in life. plenty people on that wave now

  6. Tom H.

    Linux is a fine O/S. You do need a little techspertise but I find it much more flexible to install and use than Windows. But it all depends on what you’re doing. Either way, I’m hacking on a computer, which is all good by me. I’ve gone through Windows phases and Linux phases. Heck I even went through a BSD phase.

  7. John

    It’s amazing that people complain that an OS that’s free, supported by 1000’s of people, are so dumb that they can’t seem to use a computer that doesn’t do everything for them. Windows does everything wrong for most of the idiots who use it.#( I supported and got paid for helping people to use windows for years, turn the brain off and it won’t work afterwards)

    The instructions work fine and if you have a problem then use what Little brain you have to think what commands you are typing.

    I have been using various versions of Linux for years because windows didn’t work….I have one machine that can dual boot as an emergency, i use it very occasionally to run something that i can’t do in linux. (so not very often)

    UNSTABLE ha ha I can crash windows in seconds running simple programs, its a memory HOG that is crazy. (because the programming is lazy and needs loads of memory and capacity)

    RTL-SDR as per the guide works extremely well, if you take the time to consider what and how you install, what hardware you have and the antenna. (you can’t get a radio signal on a piece of pasta)

    The instructions work well (with tweaks for different versions of linux) I have used similar on three different installations and cannot complain.

    Linux is not perfect NOR is windows. Everyone uses the internet these days and what does the internet run on…… certainly not windows IT RUNS ON LINUX.#

    Enjoy using the RTL-SDR with what ever os you use it’s great fun.

    • runbux

      John, PLEASE don’t look down your nose at those of us who don’t have computer science degrees. For MANY people the command line isn’t an option due to (A) lack of computer science training or many years of on-the-job IT experience, (B) The very real fear of royally screwing up, even totally “bricking,” your own Linux installation – this has happened to me MANY times over the years I have been a Linux user, (C) All the cryptic commands required to install new packages from the CL, for example, look like nonsense to many intelligent people. I now refuse to enter ANY command I that I don’t understand and can’t fix if something goes wrong. It should be noted by LInux “Gurus” that the CL represents a VERY, VERY STEEP learning curve for uninitiated users! Please think about this.

      I am a retired Professor with 2 Doctoral degrees, I’m not a fool just because I CHOOSE to not spend AGES trying to learn and use the extremely cryptic CL! But, I could do it if I wanted to make the substantial effort required.

      I have learned that when I exhibit an imperious attitude, I seldom make any useful contribution to solving any problem at hand. Different people simply have different skill sets that they can bring to the table.

      You, John, might feel more at home commenting in the Ubuntu forums where the “Command Line Uber Alles” types seem to have taken over.

      Now, back to trying to make my brand new SDR work!

      • Kahless2001

        Runbux, its really not that hard. You alluded to something important, which is that you choose not to learn. Your credentials are irrelevant.

        You don’t need a comp sci degree. I am literally a high school dropout, yet I am the most experienced senior systems administrator in my large company. I have written scripts that my company of 6500+ users totally depends on to deal with company wide issues. The difference is that, while I am NOT a PHD like yourself, I choose to prioritize learning.

        The problem isn’t Linux, its your attitude about Linux that limits your experience.

        If you choose to change this attitude, the very best advice I can give you is to make linux your daily driver. Use it every day, and use the CLI for everything you can. Over time, you will notice a strange thing happening. First, the CLI will becomes easier to use. Then, you will start to realize its faster then screwing around with the gui. After a few years, you will realize that it is significantly more powerful.

        Some things will still always piss you off, like vendors that require convoluted binary blobs to make their hardware work, or convoluted processes, but this is not the fault of Linux, it is the fault of the vendor. The same shit happens on any OS.

        When I started using linux, you had to compile everything from source. Those days are so far gone, today my Mother prefers Linux over Windows. If she can do it…… anyone can.

  8. Jim

    I tried Linux on and off for years,each time I found you have to have ZERO Life to use it.Its a joke unless you like sitting in the same underwear for weeks at a time trying to pretend it is GREAT !

  9. Mark Giblin

    As usual, linux falls flat on its face and none of the tutorials end in a working SDR on A Debian / Ubuntu linux mix.

    • Dan Delaney

      I just went through steps in the 2018 guide on that blog post and it all installed flawlessly on a fresh install of Linux Mint 19 (essentially Debian with some Ubuntu parts thrown in). The one thing I did differently from the guide was to begin with “sudo -i” to go to a root shell so that I didn’t have to type “sudo ” at the beginning of every command. So I ran all the commands as root except for “rtl_test”.

      • Mark Giblin

        I D K but every install of software that is made through either synaptec or via manual fails, especially where you are expected to `make` the binary, which invariable, by experience of having tried this with about 40 programmes I would like to use, fails every time complaining that either `make` does not exist or it complains of compile errors and dependencies missing that the reported error is meaningless because trying to find an answer leasd to a rabbit hole of chasing your tail.

        My philosophy is if you can’t be assed to do the job right (as in provide the binaries ready compiled) then you are only doing half a job.

        I have had more success with all in one application images AppImage than installing manually.

        I have said this all along that LINUX NEEDS TO GET ITS ACT TOGETHER and stop being cryptic and convoluted in having the end user jump through loopholes to get software working, this is where Microsoft basically shits all over Linux, no real p-roblems appart from when you have not got .net or the right .net but that a self installer away unlike LINUX.

        Frankly, I will be ditching LINUX because I am fed up of it breaking constantly, apps that fail to run and also the issue of WINE which worked fist time I installed it from the command line, it worked, perfectly for months until… LINUX UPDATES when and gave it the royal bending over take it like a man routine and shafted it.

        THAT IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH USING LINUX, it is TOO unstable and I am SICK OF FANBOYS running to the rescue of the operating system when it is totally flakey, there has not been a solid version of LINUX since 1994, since then it has been morphed in to BLOATWARE and also an OS that is ading FORCED OBSOLESCENCE of hardware that has still got use, just because they are not quad core 64 bit singing and blow job machines, doesn’t matter, LINUX needs to pick up that LEGACY FLAG AGAIN and stop this stupidity of forcing people in to buying more powerful machine because programmers these days can not program efficiently, I can show examples of what I am talking about easily, programming today is atrocious.

        There needs to be a COMPLETE RETHINK about how LINUX PROGRAMS are released, the golden rule of KISS seems to have done an A380 on people (gone right over their heads) and KISS is a rule like DRY that happens a hell of a lot with script kiddies these days as thats the baseline, cut and past boiler plate and morph it till it works. NOT GOOD.

          • Mark Giblin

            Not likely, I wouldn’t buy a Mac if you held a gun to my head.
            You’d have to shoot me dead before I am caught buying a Mac.

        • Greg

          Mark, thanks for taking the time to write this diatribe about Linux. I don’t know how I’ll ever finish this message from my Linux machine, but I’ll try. Use what works for you and just get on.

        • ivan

          How much did you pay for that distro of linux you are running? I’d switch to windows if I were you. The linux community who are thousands of individuals, most of whom probably don’t get paid for all their work and give it away for free, probably don’t care that you can’t get things to work.

        • kristan

          fuck youl havea heart attack brah, hey its a learning thig and morphing it till it works is actually smart. sudo apt get goggle me that shit

    • anon.amus

      well linux isnt perfect, but at least the “CEO” isnt actively trying to kill 1,350,000,000 and seeking dontations to help, like bill gates is, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMl0ty6evhU
      and there are many more he cant keep his mouth shiut about it.
      at least linux doesnt activly tell people they are opeb source only to janm your device full of other open souce software they make, that you can neither delete or prevent it them from sucking each and ever piece of data up generated so they can make sure the CIA and NSA have a copy` cause they sold their soul before even exiting the whomb like google, https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/how-the-cia-made-google-e836451a959e
      at least they let the free market do its thing, insuring a diverse range of products instead of super high end, very expensive products only to suck people into the company while their prices rise, and specs fall, meanwhile the CEO that created all these things, knew that they were dangerous enough to never let his own children have one of the devices, while selling phones with instructions saying “dont not hold next to your head” and quietly pushing updates that make their products shitter and shitter with each passing day, because they need more of the money you work hard to prevent the goverment taking to build bombs to drop on mud houses of poor people.
      and finaillly they arent actively working with other companies and all goverments to remove your rights, freedoms, privacy, and free access to information-all the things that were originally wonderfull about the tech revolution, like apple, google, microsoft and others are.
      and the bonus is you can hold your head a little higher knowing your not actively funding these assholes and their power hungry agenda.
      so yeah fuck linux

      • kristan

        amus.. thats his shit.. jim and mark arent ready to comprehend they can create their own better system! you take it easy and its obvious it aint ‘terminal’ for them ha. good luck dude let go of their ways make your own sweet ride in life. plenty people on that wave now

        • Anon.amus

          Kristen, Obviously im partial to Linux now, but only after 21years of osx. But Apple’s planned obselence of their devices and anti repair attitude is what finally pushed me out the door, but only after having to sue them (And win) then later buying a $500 iPod touch only to learn 2 weeks later the newer version was 64bit, and so was their new iOS, making manufactures choose between a 64bit update-or nothing, throwing me out in the cold, especially as it was used as a wifi phone (via apps) and 2nd as an iPod. But to me it seems like most should know bill gates wants you dead, via vaccines or GMOs, well anyway possible as long as he can make some money off your rotting corpse-even if death hasn’t taken a hold of you yet.
          This is a chance for the average person to take a stand against someone who is everything most people despise in the world. A thief for 1 as he stole windows from Xerox, 2 as someone who has intentionally maimed AT LEAST 49500 CHILDREN in india, AT LEAST, https://www.corbettreport.com/fact-check-polio-vaccines-tetanus-vaccines-and-the-gates-foundation/
          And that doesn’t include his work in Africa of now the USA and the rest of the world.
          He is a technocrat actively working to overthrow all the world’s governments for “the great reset” whos leader recently openly stated, in 10 years you will own nothing, you that is, they the select few will own everything, and you will rent anything and everything you need from them, provided you survive the vaccines. He is openly ecstatic about the lockdowns and the buisness, .ca,lilies, lives, economies being destroyed, he finds it hillarious that people are walking around wearing masks that have in the neighborhood of 50 peer reviewed studies all saying there are severe health risks associated with wearing them, I can go on and on. But this is a chance for the little guy (all of us) to put our money where our heart is, and I’m deeply saddened to see so few seem to give a shit, not only about their friends or families, but innocent strangers, mother earth, or if the personification of satan here on earth can continue to rake in the money he then uses to destroy all of us, regardless if we even use a computer of not. I feel let down by mankind.

    • kristan

      wow mark im a linux girl love it. im completely new to it but had no problem setting this up in less than 20 mis now im enjoying the lovely warble of the local constabulary,, riveting listening, linux windows man its turning into a scene ffs people just great we all different ay how awful if we all had to sit around in our undies like jim.

  10. AB9IL

    That’s a well written guide, covering most of what an RTL-SDR user should do in Linux to get things running well. As to his next edition, perhaps he can dig deeper into using Gqrx and CubicSDR. In my own experience, the hardest tasks for Linux and RTL-SDRs are making sure the dependencies are met if not getting apps from the repositories.

    Often, the apps in Linux require a string of startup arguments. Being one who is happy when complex things just work, I like to use scripts. A good script may ask a question or two about what you want to tune, then handle the long string of parameters the app needs.

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