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

SDR Talks from FOSDEM 2019: EM Attacks with RTL-SDR and Neural Networks, Radio Telescopes, GNU Radio in 2019 and more!

FOSDEM is a large yearly conference where thousands of open source developers gather in Brussels. This years FOSDEM was held between 2-3 February, and within the last few days the talks have been uploaded to YouTube. Below we post some SDR/Radio related talks that we've found interesting.

Performing Low-cost Electromagnetic Side-channel Attacks using RTL-SDR and Neural Networks

Electromagnetic (EM) side-channel attacks exploit the EM radiation that inherently leaks from electronic systems during various computations. Patterns in the amplitude or frequency of this radiation can be analyzed to break even theoretically secure cryptographic algorithms such as RSA and AES. In this presentation, we will cover the various challenges involved with successfully performing EM side-channel attacks using relatively low-cost Software Defined Radios (SDRs) and EM probes. More concretely, we will discuss the measurement setup, trace capture process, trace alignment / filtering, and Correlation Electromagnetic Attack (CEMA) for a scenario in which an Arduino Duemilanove is executing a software AES algorithm with an unknown key. Finally, we will see how artificial neural networks can be used to reduce the complexity of performing successful EM side-channel attacks. In present-day communications systems, cryptographic algorithms (ciphers) provide confidentiality and integrity of data through secret pieces of information (i.e. shared or private keys) known only to the communicating parties. However, as shown in numerous previous works, measuring the physical properties of hardware during executions of a cipher can reveal information about its current state. When sufficient information leaks through these so-called "side-channels", an adversary can compute the key. In this presentation, we will examine the EM side channel, which originates from electromagnetic radiation leaking from a device.

Performing EM side-channel attacks used to require rather expensive oscilloscopes with high sample rate ADCs. With the advent of inexpensive SDRs such as the RTL-SDR and advances in AI, the bar to perform such attacks has been adequately lowered. We will learn how to use the open-source ElectroMagnetic Mining Array (EMMA) tool to capture leakages emanated by an Arduino Duemilanove during the execution of an AES encryption operation. Next, a standard CEMA attack will be performed. This attack correlates the measured amplitude of a signal with the hamming weight of part of the key in order to determine which key was used during the execution of the cipher. Finally, we will examine applications of neural networks to side-channel analysis. Both traditional deep Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) as well as a novel "correlation optimization" (CO) method using shallow neural networks will be discussed.

Performing Low-cost Electromagnetic Side-channel Attacks using RTL-SDR and Neural Networks

The Dwingeloo radio telescope goes SDR

The Dwingeloo radio telescope is a historic instrument in the Netherlands. At its opening in 1956, the 25m dish was the largest fully steerable radio telescope in the world. These days it is run by a group of volunteers, who have restored and rejuvenated the instrument. It is used for radio astronomy and amateur radio, but also for outreach and art projects, to name a few of our activities.

We perform observations of pulsars, the hydrogen line of our own Milky Way and other galaxies, have a SETI project, and have recently participated in our first VLBI observation. We are increasingly using Software Defined Radio and in particular GNU Radio to perform our measurements. This allows for rapid development of new signal processing chains, and a lot of flexibility in how we process the incoming data.

In this presentation I will present some of the signal processing that is useful for radio astronomy, the flowcharts we have developed, and the astronomical results that we obtain with them.

The Dwingeloo radio telescope goes SDR

GNU Radio in 2019: Facts and Plans An overview of where GNU Radio is going this fine year

GNU Radio is one of the biggest and most widely adopted SDR framework in the free software world. In this talk, we will lay out how we intend to keep it going for the next year, and beyond. GNU Radio is one of the biggest and most widely adopted SDR framework in the free software world. It's history is pretty interesting, and spans multiple decades at this point. However, we're far from being done! We will talk about how we intend to keep the samples flowing in 2019, and beyond.

GNU Radio in 2019: Facts and Plans An overview of where GNU Radio is going this fine year

SDR Makerspace sdrmaker.space

SDR Makerspace (https://sdrmaker.space) is a collaboration between the European Space Agency and Libre Space Foundation with the objective of bringing innovative open-source SDR technologies to space communications. Makers, open-source hackers, SDR enthusiasts, and researchers are brought together to work on small SDR hardware and software projects, focusing on rapid prototyping and development of reusable open-source SDR components for future CubeSat missions. In this presentation, we give an overview of the current activities and present the results achieved so far.

SDR Makerspace (https://sdrmaker.space) is a collaboration between the European Space Agency and Libre Space Foundation with the objective of bringing innovative open-source SDR technologies to space communications. Makers, open-source hackers, SDR enthusiasts, and researchers are brought together to work on small SDR hardware and software projects, focusing on rapid prototyping and development of reusable open-source SDR components for future CubeSat missions. In this presentation, we give an overview of the current activities and present the results achieved so far.

SDR Makerspace sdrmaker.space

gr-soapy: A handy SDR hardware interface module for GNU Radio

gr-Soapy is an OOT module for the GNU Radio platform to configure and manage a plethora of SDR devices through the SoapySDR API. It provides easy to use source and sink blocks with various parameter fields, enabled according to the capabilities of the device specified by the user. With the emergence of various low cost SDR devices that anyone can experiment with, ham radio community continues to expand and create fascinating open source projects. Aside from the ham radio community, also researchers and professionals study and develop protocols and applications for the radio spectrum with the use of SDR devices.

To facilitate the interface of users with SDR devices, in this short talk we will present the gr-Soapy OOT module for the GNU Radio platform. gr-Soapy tries to simplify the process of configuring and using SDR devices inside the popular platform of GNU Radio, without omitting functionalities needed by more experienced users. It uses the open source SoapySDR project for the management of the devices. SoapySDR is an active, expanding and robust API, enabling gr-Soapy to be up to date without the need to actively update it with every new SDR device that becomes available.

gr-soapy: A handy SDR hardware interface module for GNU Radio

Other Talks

GNU Radio with a Rusty FPGA Experiment building FPGA accelerated blocks with Rust bindings

Protect your bits: Introduction to gr-fec A look into the error-correction capabilities of GNU Radio

GNU Radio meets Scapy

libsigmf: Human Tools for Extra-Terrestrial and AI Radios

SignalsEverywhere PlutoSDR Videos: Applying the Frequency Extension and Dual Core CPU Hacks and Running on SDR#

Over on the SignalsEverywhere YouTube channel, Corrosive has uploaded two new videos about the PlutoSDR. The PlutoSDR is a low cost (typically $99 - $149) RX/TX capable SDR with up to 56 MHz of bandwidth and 70 MHz to 6 GHz frequency range. It also has an onboard FPGA and ARM Cortex-A9 CPU.

By default the bandwidth and frequency range of the PlutoSDR is limited to only 20 MHz and 325 MHz - 3.8 GHz. A minor hack which requires some commands to be input via a terminal screen is required to unlock its full potential, and in the first video Corrosive runs through how this hack can be applied. He also shows an additional hack which unlocks a second CPU core which can be useful for increasing the available CPU power for apps running on the PlutoSDR's ARM processor.

In the second video Corrosive shows how to install the PlutoSDR SDR# plugin, which allows the PlutoSDR to run in SDR#. He then shows how to actually use the plugin to connect to the PlutoSDR.

Adalm Pluto SDR Tutorial: 70Mhz to 6Ghz and Dual Core CPU Modification

Adalm Pluto SDR Sharp Plugin Tutorial ~ [Infamous SDR# on Your Pluto]

Running SDR# in a Windows Virtual Machine on Linux

Thanks to John Jackson of JRMagnetics for writing in and letting us know about his post on installing SDR# onto a Windows Virtual Machine (VM) running on Fedora Linux.

As John notes, running SDR software from within a virtual machine essentially freezes a working version of your setup in a virtual image. It's then possible to put the image on a memory stick and take your entire working software setup with you and run it on another PC. Using a fixed image then also avoids problems with OS updates breaking things, as updates can be safely turned off on the virtual machine. Any damage from viruses is localized to the virtual machine only.

During his research John found many people who have been running Linux from within a virtual machine running on Windows, but not the reverse. Originally he tried running a Windows VM from within Windows, but he experienced crashes. Only when using Linux as the base OS was his Windows VM stable.

In his setup he runs Fedora 26 as the base Linux OS (although other Linux versions should also work), and Windows 7 in the Virtual Machine. He uses Oracle VirtualBox as the virtualization software. Once Windows 7 is installed on the Virtual Machine, setting up software like SDR# is as simple as going through our quickstart guide.

SDR# Running in a Windows Virtual Machine
SDR# Running in a Windows Virtual Machine

New SDR# Plugin Adds Support for Contour Shuttle USB Controllers

Contour ShuttlePro V2
Contour ShuttlePro V2

The Contour Shuttle Express and Pro V2 are USB controller accessories for PCs. They consist of a knob-like wheel with multiple buttons and they are designed as a keyboard replacement for improving the productivity of video/photo editors. However, several people have found them useful for controlling software defined radio receiver programs like SDR#.

Recently SDR# plugin developer Eddie Mac has released a new SDR# plugin that provides native support for the Shuttle devices from within SDR# itself. The plugin allows you to dynamically map the Shuttle's buttons and wheels to functions within SDR#.

Eddie also writes:

There was no wrapper available for Contours Windows SDK so I created a managed .NET wrapper around contours dll. If anyone wants to develop their own software for these devices I will happily provide them with my .NET wrapper for free as well as a demo app to instruct on its usage.

Contour Shuttle Plugin for SDR#
Contour Shuttle Plugin for SDR#

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

Using an Airspy HF+ with SDR# and WSJT-X to Decode FT8 + SpyServer FT8 Decoding Demo

Over on YouTube user TheGazLab has uploaded a video that reviews the Airspy HF+, and also shows how to use the HF+ with SDR# and WSJT-X in order to create a FT8 monitor. The Airspy HF+ is high dynamic range HF/VHF receiver designed for DXing.

In the video TheGazLab demonstrates to us the decoding in real time, and explains the CAT control SDR# plugin that he's using. The CAT control plugin when combined with a virtual serial port driver allows the WSJT-X program to automatically tune SDR# to the FT8 frequency selected in WSJT-X.

Later in the video he also discusses the SpyServer network which allows SDR# users to connect to remote public Airspy and RTL-SDR units over the internet. He demonstrates connecting to a public server in the UK, and decoding FT8 via the remote server. The video also shows the new SpyServer interface by  which nicely lays out the world SpyServer network on a map, making it easy to choose a desired location to listen to.

Airspy HFPlus, SDR# and WSJT-X with full CAT control decoding FT-8