Tagged: hackrf

TechMinds: Extending the Range of Transmit Capable SDRs with Amplifier

Over on his YouTube channel TechMinds has uploaded a new video showing how to use RF amplifiers to extend the transmit range of transmit capable SDRs like the LimeSDR, HackRF and PlutoSDR. Whilst they are transmit capable, most low cost SDRs like those mentioned above can only transmit at very low power levels typically much less than 30 mW. In the video TechMinds tests a wideband SPF5189Z and filtered 2.4 - 2.5 GHZ CN0417 based amplifier, and shows the output power obtained using an inline power meter.

He also notes that these wideband amplifier will also amplify harmonics so filtering is recommended. At the same time we note that you should only transmit if you are licenced to do so (for example with a ham radio licence), especially if you are amplifying the output.

Extend SDR Transmit Range - LimeSDR - HackRF - Adalm Pluto Amplifier

Alpha Version of SDR++ Released

SDR++ is an open source general purpose cross platform SDR program that Alexandre Rouma (@WhatsTheGeekYT) has been working on for the past few months. Recently he released his first Windows Alpha version to the public which is available from the GitHub release page. The SDR++ GUI is inspired by SDR#, however, SDR++ as you might guess is programmed in C++ instead of C#.

In order to use SDR++ on Windows you will first need to have installed PothosSDR for the SoapySDR and volk support. To do this you can follow the instructions here. Thanks to the SoapySDR support it is able to run with most SDRs including the RTL-SDR.

To start the program, select your SDR from the source menu, change the sample rate (which is set to the minimum value by default), then click the play button. We tested it with both an RTL-SDR and HackRF, and both units worked just fine, although at lower sample rates the waterfall was a bit choppy. We do note that the software is very much in the alpha phase with only a few features implemented, and most menu items do not work yet. But the main features including WFM, FM, AM, SSB, CW demodulation as well as the spectrum and waterfall are all functional. Unfortunately there do seem to be a few stability issues as we experienced frequent crashes on our PC.

We'll be watching this software with interest to see how it progresses.

Current Features

  • Uses SoapySDR for wide hardware support
  • Hardware accelerated graphics (OpenGL + ImGui)
  • SIMD accelerated DSP (parts of the DSP are still missing)
  • Cross-platform
  • Full waterfall update when possible. Makes browsing signals easier and more pleasant

Coming soon

  • Multi-VFO
  • Plugins
  • Digital demodulators and decoders
  • Quick replay (replay last n seconds, cool if you missed a short signal)

Small things to add

  • Switchable bandwidth for demodulators
  • Switchable audio output device and sample rate
  • Recording
  • Light theme (I know you weirdos exist lol)
  • Waterfall color scheme editor
  • Switchable fft size
  • Bias-T enable/disable
  • other small customisation options
  • Save waterfall and demod settings between sessions
  • "Hide sidebar" option
  • Input filter bandwidth option

Known issues (please check before reporting)

  • Random crashes (yikes)
  • Gains aren't stepped
  • The default gains might contain a bogus value before being adjusted
  • Clicks in the audio
  • In some cases, it takes a long time to select a device (RTL-SDR in particular)
  • Min and Max buttons can get unachievable values (eg. min > max or min = max);
The SDR++ Interface
The SDR++ Interface

RadioSlate: A Tablet with Built in LimeSDR or HackRF

A new project called "RadioSlate" has recently been announced by Yian IT, a Chinese IoT company. RadioSlate will be an SDR-enabled tablet designed to be used with a HackRF or LimeSDR software defined radio that will be mounted internally behind the screen under some metal shielding. The tablet uses a 1024 x 600 touchscreen and runs an Intel M3 8100Y 1.1 to 3.4 GHz dual core CPU with 8GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and it supports both Linux and Windows. Batteries will not be included, but it supports batteries in the standard 18650 form factor which can be purchased anywhere.

The project is due to be crowdfunded on CrowdSupply in the near future, and you can currently sign up to receive updates and be notified when the project launches. They write:

RadioSlate is a sturdy aluminum tablet with an industry-favorite software-defined radio (SDR) board—your choice of HackRF or LimeSDR—tucked away behind its touchscreen. Whether you’re a Ham radio operator, a network engineer, a mobile base station designer, a security auditor, or some other variety of SDR enthusiast, RadioSlate lets you do your thing, even if that thing requires you to go outside and walk around, get unusually close to transmitters and receivers, keep one hand free for other tasks, or manage all of the above without drawing undue attention to yourself.

Explore the spectrum, while on the go, without having to drag along your laptop, an SDR board, and cables.

The RadioSlate: An SDR-enabled Tablet
The RadioSlate: An SDR-enabled Tablet

Tech Minds: Eavesdropping on Video Monitors with TempestSDR

Over on his latest video Tech Minds' explores the use of TempestSDR to eavesdrop on video monitors with his Airspy Mini. TempestSDR is a program that we've posted about several times in the past. With an RTL-SDR or other compatible SDR like a HackRF it allows you to reconstruct an image from a computer monitor or TV just from the radio waves unintentionally emitted by the screen or cable. SDRs with larger bandwidths like the HackRF or Airspy are better at reconstructing the image as they can collect more information.

In his video Tech Minds shows how to download and setup one of the newer branches of TempestSDR which unlike older versions doesn't require much installation work. Using an Airspy Mini he shows that he is able to view what is on his screen via the emitted RF waves.

Eavesdropping Video Monitors With TempestSDR RTL-SDR

Tech Minds: Testing the Mayhem Firmware on the HackRF Portapack

In a video uploaded to YouTube last week, Tech Minds explored the HackRF Portapack, which is an add on for the HackRF SDR that allows the HackRF to be used portably without a PC. In that video he demonstrated it running the stock firmware.

In his latest video Tech Minds explores the Mayhem firmware, which is firmware developed by a third party in order to add significantly more features. The Mayhem firmware is a fork of the Havok firmware which is no longer maintained. If you're interested, back in 2018 we did our own review of the Havok firmware.

In the video Tech Minds first explains how to install the Mayhem firmware which also requires you to add an external SD card into your portapack. He goes on to demonstrate the various RX decoders available including ADS-B, ACARS, AIS, AFSK, BTLE, FM/AM/SSB audio, analog TV, ERT meters, POCSAG, Radiosonde and TPMS. Next he shows the various transmittable signals available including, ADS-B, APRS, BHT, GPS Sim, Jammer, Key Fob, LGE, Mic, Morse, Burger Pagers, OOK, POCSAG, RDS, Sounds, SSTV, TEDI/LCR and TouchTune.

MAYHEM Firmware for the HackRF Portapack Installation / Overview

Tech Minds: A First Look at the HackRF Portapack

The Portapack is an add on for the HackRF SDR that allows the HackRF to be used portably without a PC. If you're interested, in the past we reviewed the Portapack with the Havok firmware, which enables many TX features such as POCSAG transmissions as well as various other RX modes.

In a recent video Tech Minds reviews a Portapack clone, which is essentially exactly the same as the original Portapack. In the video he shows how to connect the Portapack to the HackRF, how download the Firmware and flash it to the HackRF. He then goes on to show some of the Portapack RX features in action. In this review he uses the official Portapack firmware, but notes that he will test the third party Havok and Mayhem firmware which have many more features in a future video.

Portapack H1 For HackRF - Ultimate RF Hacker Tool

A Self-Executable version of TempestSDR is now Available

TempestSDR is an open source tool made by Martin Marinov which allows you to use any SDR that has a supporting ExtIO (such as RTL-SDR, Airspy, SDRplay, HackRF) to receive the unintentional signals radiated from a screen, and turn that signal back into a live image. This can let you view what is on a screen through a wall without using any physical cables.

We first posted a demonstration of TempestSDR back in 2017 when we were finally able to get it to compile. Compiling the software took a fair amount of work for those without experience, and even running it was a chore. However, getting it to work is worth it as you can do some really interesting demonstrations.

However these problems are over and recently Erwin Ried @eried has made a self-executable version of TempestSDR. This means that no compilation, java installs, mingw or extra dlls are required to get the program to work as now it's just an exe that you can run. You will still need the appropriate ExtIO dlls for your SDR. The video in his twitter post shows it working with a HackRF.

Derpcon 2020 Talk: Breaking into the World of Software Defined Radio

Derpcon is a COVID-19 inspired information security conference that was held virtually between April 30 - May 1 2020. Recently the talks have been uploaded to their YouTube channel. One interesting SDR talk we've seen was by Kelly Albrink and it is titled "Ham Hacks: Breaking into the World of Software Defined Radio". The talk starts by giving a very clear introduction to software defined radio, and then moves on to more a complex topic where Kelly shows how to analyze and reverse engineer digital signals using a HackRF and Universal Radio Hacker.

RF Signals are basically magic. They unlock our cars, power our phones, and transmit our memes. You’re probably familiar with Wifi and Bluetooth, but what happens when you encounter a more obscure radio protocol? If you’re a hacker who has always been too afraid of RF protocols to try getting into SDRs, or you have a HackRF collecting dust in your closet, this talk will show you the ropes. This content is for penetration testers and security researchers to introduce you to finding, capturing, and reverse engineering RF signals. I’ll cover the basics of RF so you’re familiar with the terminology and concepts needed to navigate the wireless world. We’ll compare SDR hardware from the $20 RTLSDR all the way up to the higher end radios, so you get the equipment that you need without wasting money. I’ll introduce some of the software you’ll need to interact with and analyze RF signals. And then we’ll tie it all together with a step by step demonstration of locating, capturing, and reverse engineering a car key fob signal.

Ham Hacks: Breaking into the World of Software Defined Radio - Kelly Albrink