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. 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 !

  2. 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.

  3. 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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