Measuring the Radiation Pattern of a Yagi Antenna with a NanoVNA

On Hackaday we've seen an interesting post about Jephthai who has used a NanoVNA to measure the radiation pattern of a home made Yagi antenna. He began by initially modelling the Yagi using the MMANA software package, then building the antenna and measuring the SWR.

However, SWR is only partial information and tells us nothing about the actual gain and directivity / radiation pattern of the antenna. The radiation pattern tells us in which direction the antenna receives and radiates power best from. For a Yagi, we would expect the best reception gain to come from the front, with much less gain on the sides and rear.

To set up the radiation pattern measurement, Jephthai connected the Yagi to the TX port of the NanoVNA via a long coax cable, and connected an omnidirectional whip antenna to the RX port of the NanoVNA. The NanoVNA and Yagi are separated by a reasonable distance of 18' to ensure that the far-field radiation pattern is measured instead of the near-field pattern. He then measures and collects the S21 reading over multiple rotations of the Yagi.

The data is then plotted revealing a two dimensional radiation pattern for the Yagi. As expected gain is highest in the front, and weaker on the sides and rear. Jephthai notes that the radiation pattern mostly matches what the MMANA antenna modelling software predicted too.

Jephthai's NanoVNA Radiation Pattern Measurement Setup
Jephthai's NanoVNA Radiation Pattern Measurement Setup

DSDPlusUI: A Graphical User Interface for DSD+

Over on Twitter Annunaki (@StupotSinders) has been teasing some screenshots of a GUI for DSD+ that he's been developing over the past few weeks. And now he has released the software which is called "DSDPlusUI". DSD+ is mostly command line based, so a GUI could be useful for newbies. The software can be downloaded from the DSDPlusUI groups.io page.

DSD+ (aka Digital Speech Decoder) is a free closed source program that is compatible with RTL-SDR and various other SDRs which is used to decoder digital speech protocols such as P25 P1, DMR, NXDN and more. DSD+ Fastlane is a paid upgrade which allows subscribers to receive the latest updates to the software early. 

DSD+ GUI by Annunaki
DSD+ GUI by Annunaki

A Guide to the NanoVNA: Kindle eBook for $2.99

With the NanoVNA (and upcoming NanoVNA 2.0) being so affordable and readily available many budget focused RF enthusiasts and hams are now adding a tool to their arsenal that used to only be for the wealthy and commercial users. Vector Network Analyzers (VNAs) allow you to do things like make SWR measurements on antennas, characterize RF filters and detect coax cable faults, among other applications.

However, much like the RTL-SDR there is no one company or entity controlling the NanoVNA concept or development. The NanoVNA name now encompasses a mishmash of similar but slightly different hardware created by multiple manufacturers/community members, and multiple firmware and software developed by the community. This can be frustrating for some people as community developed products typically do not have full manuals and support that you would find in products from a larger commercial company. Instead some time to research and understand the product may be required.

Whilst almost plug and play, to use the NanoVNA you still need to understand what a VNA is, how to calibrate it, and how to read it's measurements. And in addition, for the NanoVNA in particular you'll want to know the differences in NanoVNA versions, how to update the firmware and where to find optional PC programs for it.

In order to help people new to VNAs and the NanoVNA, Christoph Schwarzler (OE1CGS) and Maximilian Schwarzler (OE1SML) have written a Kindle eBook called "A guide to the NanoVNA". The guide goes over what a VNA is and how it works, NanoVNA hardware versions and what to avoid, what accessories you might need, how to update the firmware, how to read the various charts, how to navigate the menus, how to calibrate and how to use NanoVNA PC software. The book also goes over some use cases for the NanoVNA, including creating a loading coil for a 40m short vertical antenna, creating a band pass filter, and checking for coax short circuit defects. At only US$2.99 it's a good way to get started with the NanoVNA.

Kindle Book "A Guide to the NanoVNA"
Kindle Book "A Guide to the NanoVNA"

Airspy HF+ Discovery Wins the WRTH 2020 Best Value SDR Award

The World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH) is a directory book (or CD) of world radio stations on LW, MW, SW and VHF broadcast FM which is released yearly. Along with the directory, the WRTH authors often review the latest shortwave listening hardware including SDRs and give out awards to the best units. 

Last year the Airspy HF+ won the WRTH 2019 award for best value HF SDR, and this year the Airspy HF+ Discovery wins the 2020 award. The award comes with a glowing review in the magazine (the review is freely accessible) noting the HF+ Discoveries' "spectacular combination of performance and versatility" as well as it's affordable price point. 

World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH) Reviews the Airspy HF+ Discovery and awards it the 2020 "best value SDR" award.
World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH) Reviews the Airspy HF+ Discovery and awards it the 2020 "best value SDR" award.

SDRplay Updates: RSPdx Now Supported by SDR Console V3, RSPdx EXTIO Released

SDRplay have recently released an update regarding third party software support and availability of their latest RSPdx receiver. They write:

Happy new Year from all of us at SDRplay.

Here’s an update on additional software for the RSPdx. SDRplay’s SDRuno fully supports the RSPdx but it takes several weeks for other software to catch up to the capabilities offered on the other RSP models.

Simon Brown has released his latest version of SDR Console V3 which supports the RSPdx (Version 3.0.18 dated January 1st) over on https://www.sdr-radio.com/ (make sure you download the latest API 3.x from our downloads page first)

We have released an EXTIO plugin for the RSPdx which will enable the RSPdx to work with any EXTIO-based software (e.g. HDSDR) although it doesn’t support HDR mode. HDR mode will not be added and the source code for the plugin can be found on our GitHub repository (https://github.com/SDRplay/ExtIO_SDRplay) we will not be supporting the plugin source code or extending the plugins capabilities. They are all free to be modified.

It is important to note that the RSPdx ExtIO plugin does NOT, AND WILL NOT, support HDR mode. If you need HDR mode, then SDRuno is the best option. HDR mode requires the end application to work in a certain way and this is not something that can be controlled via the ExtIO protocol.

Work has also begun on supporting RSPdx for SoapySDR based applications such as Cubic SDR (again this won’t include HDR mode). A Gnu Radio source block for the RSPdx will follow.

We are working with Steve Andrew, author of the Software Analyser software programme (see https://www.sdrplay.com/spectrum-analyser/ ) to help get compatibility for the RSPdx – this is a slightly longer process so this will take several more weeks.

Regarding stocks of the RSPs, SDRplay and most of our resellers on www.sdrplay.com/distributors/ have plenty of stock of RSP1A and the RSPduo. However there continues to be a shortage of the RSPdx whereby many of the resellers have sold out of their first deliveries. SDRplay is queuing up their replacement orders on a first come, first served basis. We also have our own quantity planned in there to allow us to sell direct from our website. We still hope that by the end of January we will have supplied this second wave of RSPdx demand.

The RSPdx
The RSPdx

KiwiSDR Portal SDR.HU Now Requires a Ham Licence + OpenWebRX Development Discontinued

The KiwiSDR is a US$299 HF SDR that can monitor the entire 0 - 30 MHz band at once. It is designed to be web-based and shared, meaning that the KiwiSDR owner, or anyone that they've given access to can tune and listen to it via a web browser over the internet. 

OpenWebRX is code originally created by András Retzler and a modified version runs on the KiwiSDR devices. This code is what allows them to be accessed online by a browser and was popularized by it's use in the KiwiSDR. The original code can also be used by other compatible SDRs such as the RTL-SDR.

Recently András released news that he is discontinuing work on OpenWebRX due to interest in other projects, but it will remain on GitHub as open source code. András also notes that the security of OpenWebRX will soon be in question as it utilizes Python 2, which has been designated end of life on January 1 2020. In addition, if you've been following OpenWebRX since the beginning, you'll know that in the past OpenWebRX was involved in an legal/ethical issue over open source licencing with KiwiSDR. Although the problems with KiwiSDR were resolved amicably, Andras also references his frustrations with similar situations to do with his code being forked again and again. 

We note that maintenance and development of the KiwiSDR OpenWebRX code will continue as they are considered separate projects. Due to some confusion, we importantly reiterate that the KiwiSDR product is unaffected by OpenWebRX being discontinued. Although KiwiSDR is based on OpenWebRX they use their own custom branch of the software that is maintained by the KiwiSDR owners and not by András.

András also runs the popular sdr.hu OpenWebRX/KiwiSDR directory, which was/is considered the main directory for finding and accessing public KiwiSDR and other SDR devices running OpenWebRX. Recently the directory was restricted, and now can only be accessed by those with a ham radio callsign. It is unclear why this decision was made as sdr.hu was very popular with shortwave listeners and radio newbies who are typically not hams. But the sdr.hu FAQ notes "The purpose of the site is to serve amateur radio. I decided to restrict access to the receiver list in order to protect the site and its purpose in the long term."

Fortunately, over on his SWLing.com blog, Thomas has noted that there are still other KiwiSDR directories available such as https://ve3sun.com/KiwiSDR, http://kiwisdr.com/public and http://rx.linkfanel.net.

SDR.HU Requires a Login Now
SDR.HU Requires a Login Now

Bypassing Chamberlain myQ Garage Doors with a Jamming SDR Attack

McAfee Advanced Threat Research have recently uploaded a blog post describing how they investigated Chamberlain’s MyQ Hub, a “Universal” IoT garage door automation platform.  Such a device allows you to operate and monitor the status your garage door remotely via an app. This can allow you to open and close the garage door for couriers, or for couriers to do it themselves if they are on the app.

Whilst they found that the internet based network side was secure, they discovered a flaw in the way that the MyQ hub communicates with the remote sensor over RF radio frequencies.

Although the system utilizes rolling codes for security,  McAfee researchers made use of the "rolljam" technique, which is one well known method for breaking rolling code security. The basic idea is to use an SDR or other RF device to jam the signal, collect the second rolling code after two key presses, then play back the first. Now the attacker has the second unused rolling code ready to be played back at any time.

McAfee Researchers Jam the actual signal (red) with a jamming signal (black)
McAfee researchers jam the actual MyQ signal (red) with a jamming signal (black)

In their threat demonstration they utilized a SDR running GNU Radio on a computing platform which sits outside the target garage door. The method used in the demonstration actually only involves jamming and not the use of a replay. It exploits a method that confuses the state of the MyQ device, allowing the garage door to be mistakenly opened by the owner when he thinks that he is closing it. They write:

With our jamming working reliably, we confirmed that when a user closes the garage door via the MyQ application, the remote sensor never responds with the closed signal because we are jamming it. The app will alert the user that “Something went wrong. Please try again.” This is where a normal user, if not in direct sight of the garage door, would think that their garage door is indeed open, when in reality it is securely closed. If the user believes the MyQ app then they would do as the application indicates and “try again” – this is where the statelessness of garage doors comes into play. The MyQ Hub will send the open/closed signal to the garage door and it will open, because it is already closed, and it is simply changing state. This allows an attacker direct entry into the garage, and, in many cases, into the home.

McAfee Advanced Threat Research Demo Chamberlain MyQ

RadarBox Optimized ADS-B Antenna + RTL-SDR Bundle Sale $39.95 + Shipping

Over in our store we're currently selling a RadarBox branded bundle that includes an ADS-B optimized antenna with 10 meters of coax, AND an ADS-B 1090 MHz optimized RTL-SDR dongle. RadarBox24 is an ADS-B aggregation flight tracking service similar to other services like FlightRadar24 and FlightAware. The set is RadarBox branded, but of course can be used with any tracking service, or just for your own private ADS-B station.

The bundle is now on sale for US$39.95 + shipping! The sale will last until stock runs out and this sale is only available from us. At other places like Amazon it is currently selling for US$64.95.

To purchase please visit our store and scroll down to find the RadarBox bundle "Add to Cart" button.

The antenna has 7 dBi gain, 50 (+-5) Ohm impedance, and is made from fiberglass and aluminum. It is fully waterproof and outdoor rated with 10 meters of coax cable and includes mounting clamps. The RadarBox RTL-SDR is specifically optimized for 1090 MHz ADS-B reception with it's built in filter and low noise amplifier.

The bundle ships out once per week and tracking is provided 1-2 days after shipping.

RadarBox Bundle: Includes 1x Outdoor ADS-B Antenna, 1x ADS-B Optimized RTL-SDR
RadarBox Bundle: Includes 1x Outdoor ADS-B Antenna AND 1x ADS-B Optimized RTL-SDR