Category: Applications

rsp_tcp: An rtl_tcp compatible IQ Server for SDRplay SDRs

The SDRplay team have released an updated version of a program called "rsp_tcp" (originally written by F4FHH Nicholas). This is a streaming IQ server for SDRplay devices, which is directly ported from the original rtl_tcp code that was designed for RTL-SDRs. The rsp_tcp code is fully compatible with the rtl_tcp protocol, so this should allow almost any software that accepts an rtl_tcp stream as an input to use an SDRplay device as the SDR hardware instead of an RTL-SDR.

The downside to using this server is that in order to be compatible with the standard rtl_tcp protocol, the software will downgrade the RSP data stream from 14-bits to 8-bits only, thus forfeiting the RSP's greater dynamic range. However, if a custom ExtIO plugin is used on the client software, then the full 14-bits can be restored.

On their forums the SDRplay team write:

This software is based on a fork of F4FHH’s version of RTL TCP Server. It has been updated to support the RSP features, but also contains an extended mode. The extended mode allows the client (via a compatible interface) to fully control all aspects of the RSPs, including notch filters, Bias-T enable and switching ports (where applicable)

The user guide for the server software can be found on our downloads page and also here: https://www.sdrplay.com/docs/SDRplay_RS ... _Guide.pdf

We have provided binaries for Windows, Mac and RPi on our downloads page and the source code for all platforms can be found on our GitHub repository: https://github.com/SDRplay/RSPTCPServer

To utilise the extended mode, extra commands need to be sent from the client. We have provided an example of this in the form of an ExtIO plugin. You can find the Windows dll on our downloads page and the source code for the plugin on our GitHub repository: https://github.com/SDRplay/ExtIO_RSP_TCP

In standard mode, the server will be compatible with any RTL server client.

The team also note that they have updated their Raspberry Pi SD card to include the server.

XRIT Decoder Updated: Improved Image Quality and IR Enhancements

USA-Satcom is the programmer of XRIT Decoder, which is a popular (paid) Windows decoding application for GOES weather satellites. With a WiFi grid dish antenna, LNA and SDRplay, Airspy or even an RTL-SDR, high resolution full disk images of the earth can be downloaded from these geosynchronous satellites. Browse through our previous GOES posts for ideas and various tutorials about setting up a receiver.

Recently, XRIT decoder has been updated and now has improved image quality and an antenna alignment helper tool. A further update also adds improved processing for IR images. Over on the SDRplay forums RSP2user has been testing the updates and writes:

USA- Satcom has just released version 1.4.6985 of the XRIT Decoder software package. New features include:

1) Improved image clarity.

2) An antenna Align Mode feature.
3) And a Viterbi and Eb/No (Energy per Bit to Noise Power Spectral Density Ratio akanormalized SNR) graph over time feature. 

The improved image clarity reduces image artifacts at the Earth-space boundary of the image and improves the overall aesthetics of the colorization of the full disk images. The images are quite amazing. The resolution is far better than what can be shown here due to image size limitations for this site. Below is a full disk GOES 16 image from February 17, 2019 and a corresponding zoomed in portion to get an idea of the resolution and clarity (the actual full disk images are approximately 40MB PNG images each which are much greater resolution than the below image)

The antenna Align Mode is a great new feature that allows users to view the Signal Quality, Viterbi FEC, and Eb/No from a distance using large numeric values. This mode enables users to better view these values when fine tuning adjustments to GOES receiving antennas. The Eb/No and Viterbi graphing enables users to see how well their receiving system is doing throughout the day (e.g., over temperature and while the sun is in alignment with the receiving path).

GOES 16 Received by RSP2User
GOES 16 Received by RSP2User

More updates from USA-Satcom to the XRIT Decoder software with a new patch from today. The XRIT file manager now provides IR image enhancements for GOES Bands 8 and 13. Here are some examples:

G16 CH13 & G16 Band8 Enhancements . Images received by RSP2user.
G16 CH13 & G16 Band8 Enhancements . Images received by RSP2user.

See the post on the SDRplay forums for further details, higher res images and the full update history.

ExaGear x86 Emulator for ARM To be Discontinued

ExaGear is an x86 emulator for ARM computing devices. In the past we posted about ExaGear as together with WINE, it was an affordable solution that allowed Windows SDR apps to run on ARM devices like the Raspberry Pi 3. With ExaGear and WINE we were able to get Windows only SDR programs like Unitrunker, WinSTD C, DSD+, MultiPSK, PC-HFDL, Orbitron and Sondemonitor to run smoothly. In another previous post, DE8MSH was also able to use ExaGear to get Speclab running on his Raspberry Pi 3.

Unfortunately it appears that ExaGear is to be discontinued from February 28 onwards although they note that all previously purchased licences will continue to work. No reason has been given other than noting that it is their business decision. For now the downloads and ability to purchase licences is still active until February 28, so if ExaGear was a product you were interested in, you have just over a week to obtain it.

ExaGear to be discontinued
ExaGear to be discontinued

Es’hail-2 Amateur Transponder Now Active

Es'Hail 2 Coverage
Es'Hail 2 Coverage from Amsat-UK

Es'hail 2 was launched last November and it is the first geostationary satellite to contain an amateur radio transponder. The satellite is positioned at 25.5°E which is over Africa. It's reception footprint covers Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, eastern Brazil and the west half of Russia/Asia. There are two amateur transponders on the satellite. One is a narrow band linear transponder which uplinks from  2400.050 - 2400.300 MHz and downlinks from 10489.550 - 10489.800 MHz. Another is a wide band digital transponder for amateur digital TV which uplinks from 2401.500 - 2409.500 MHz and downlinks from 10491.000 - 10499.000 MHz.

Although it launched last year it takes several months for the engineers to test and qualify the transponder for use. Over the last few weeks the transponder was intermittently active during the testing, but now since Feb 13 2019 the amateur transponder has finally been fully activated for amateur radio use.

To receive it with an RTL-SDR or most other SDRs an LNB is required to receive the 10 GHz signal and downconvert it into a frequency range that most SDRs support. Typically an Octagon LNB is used, and these are easy to find and cheap as they are often used for satellite TV.

From various reports seen on Twitter, it seems that the signal is strong enough that a satellite dish is not required for receiving - simply pointing the LNB directly at the satellite is enough.

If you can't set up a receiver, there is an OpenWebRX livestream of the Es'hail 2 narrowband channel that has been set up by Zoltan/RFSparkling which is available at sniffing.ddns.net:8073 (note the server can only handle 8 users at a time, so try again later if it's busy). Also as pointed out by KD9IXX on Twitter, there are also several websdr.org servers receiving and streaming Es'hail2 including an Airspy based one run officially by AMSAT-DL.

Radwave Beta: Android RTL-SDR RF Analyzer App with Spectrum Pause and Rewind Features

Radwave Screenshot
Radwave Screenshot

Radwave is a recently released Android App for RTL-SDR dongles. It provides a real time waterfall of the RF spectrum, and it's defining feature is that you can easily zoom, pause and rewind the spectrum at any time. The software is currently in beta, and doesn't demodulate any signals, but the work and ideas behind the spectrum display features is really interesting.

Radwave utilizes RTL-SDR dongles and the RTL2832U driver app to allow people to interactively explore the RF spectrum. You can dynamically zoom in and out in time and frequency, pause, and go back in time - all without losing any samples. If you find something cool, tag it and share with friends.

Radwave core technology is its interactive real-time spectrogram. It shows all the spectrum - utilizing every sample1 - for the entire collection2. Frequencies are aligned over time as you change the RF center frequency3, helping you make sense of what you see.

1 Adjacent non-overlapping DFT windows

2 Up to device limitations

3 Alignment limited by buffer uncertainty

Radwave Intro - We're in Beta!

Tracking Radiosondes with an RTL-SDR and Radiosonde_Auto_RX

A radiosonde is a small sensor and radio package normally attached to a weather balloon. Meteorological agencies around the world typically launch two balloons a day from several locations to gather data for weather prediction. With an RTL-SDR, appropriate antenna and decoding software it is possible to decode the telemetry signal and gather the weather data yourself. You can also use the GPS data to chase and collect the fallen radiosonde package. We have a tutorial on setting up a basic radiosonde decoder in Windows here.

However, if you want to set up a permanent radiosonde receive station it's possible to create an automatic system with a program called radiosonde_auto_rx. It works by performing an rtl_power scan over the radiosonde frequency range and looking for peaks that might indicate that a radiosonde is currently transmitting. If a peak is found it tries to decode it as a radiosonde, and if successful will begin uploading the weather data to an online aggregation site called sondehub.org. With this sort of system there is no need to know in advance the launch times and exact frequencies that your local meteorological agency uses, as often this information is not public.

Recently Mark Jessop and Michael Wheeler, the team behind radiosonde_auto_rx, also did a talk at the linux.conf.au conference. The talk explains radiosondes and demonstrates their software in action. They then go on to talk about chasing radiosondes, and re-purposing collected sondes.

[Also seen on Hackaday]

STM32 Development Boards (literally) Falling From The Sky

Steve M Talks about Osmo-FL2K at Osmocom Conference 2018

Osmo-FL2K can be considered as the [evil] transmit-side brother of RTL-SDRs. It is a driver that allows cheap $5 - $15 USB 3.0 VGA adapters to be used as a transmit-only capable SDR. It might be considered [evil] as transmitting illegally and without filtering can pollute the RF spectrum, but being responsible with it and using appropriate filters could enable extremely low cost transmitters.

Recently at the October 2018 Osmocom Conference, Steve M, the man behind the Osmo-FL2K discovery and software (and heavily responsible for the development of RTL-SDR too) has given a talk titled "osmo-fl2k - the [evil] transmit-side brother of RTL-SDR". In the past he's also given a similar talk that we posted about previously.

The talk goes over the discovery and reverse engineering of Osmo-FL2k, discussion of the application itself, some signals that have been successfully transmitted and some measurements.

Osmocom is behind the discoveries of RTL-SDR and OsmoFL2K. If you'd like to support them please donate at OpenCollective, and check out their other projects at osmocom.org.

osmo-fl2k - the [evil] transmit-side brother of RTL-SDR

YouTube Tutorial: Software Set up for a Portable Raspberry Pi and RTL-SDR Based NOAA Weather Satellite Receiver

Last year in December we posted about Matt's element14 sponsored video which showed us how to create a portable briefcase contained NOAA satellite received based on a Raspberry Pi and RTL-SDR dongle. The build consisted of a heavy duty briefcase, modified ATX PSU and stripped down LCD monitor panel. This build resulted in a rugged and portable receiver. The full series of videos demonstrating the briefcase, ATX PSU conversion, LCD teardown, and NOAA satellite receiver demo can be found on his YouTube Playlist.

In his latest video Matt goes over the software installation procedure for creating an automated NOAA weather satellite receiver on the Raspberry Pi. He uses gpredict for predicting the satellite passes, and the Raspberry Pi version of WXtoImg for decoding the images. The rest of the video shows how to set up the software for your particular location, and how to set up decoding automation.

How To Set Up a Raspberry Pi as a NOAA Satellite Receiver with RTL-SDR