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.



  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 !

  4. 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.

    • 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

  5. 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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