Tagged: limesdr

LimeSDR and SDRAngel Running on a LattePanda

Thanks to Marty Wittrock for sharing with us his latest news about his experiences with the LimeSDR. Over on YouTube he’s uploaded a video showing that the LimeSDR can run perfectly on a ‘LattePanda‘ which is a full Win10 64-bit PC in a Raspberry Pi sized package. The one Marty uses costs about $209 with a fully activated Windows 10 licence and has 64G eMMC memory, a 1.44 GHz CPU and 4GB of RAM. The cheaper version with 2GB of RAM and 32GB eMMC memory only costs $119 USD. Of interest is that the LattePanda also comes with an Arduino co-processor for various GPIO projects, which could be useful for switching in and out various radio blocks like filters and LNAs.

In his video Marty shows that the SDRAngel software run the LimeSDR smoothly on the LattePanda, and he demonstrates receiving the 30M band. He writes:

Ladies and Gentlemen may I present to you: The LimeSDR operating on receive on the 30m Shortwave Band using SDRAngel running on a Windows 10, 64-bit, 4G (RAM) 64G (FLASH) operating at 1.8 GHz on a LattePanda – – THE SMALLEST WINDOWS 10 PC ON EARTH..! No kidding, this makes my MSI ‘hockey puck’ PC look monstrous…The LattePanda is about the same size as my LimeSDR and a VERY POWERFUL little PC, too…I’m INCREDIBLY impressed with this tiny PC…This Single Board Computer also has an integrated Arduino processor such that all the bandswitching and other functions required to make a Software Defined Transceiver will be very trivial to add-in…The ‘proof of concept’ is complete – – this shows that it CAN BE DONE to make the LimeSDR into a compact, wideband Software Defined Transceiver that can be run on a car battery if needed…Watch the video and see for yourself…CHEERS..!

In a second newer video he demonstrates the system running on a 7″ LCD touchscreen. He writes:

Here’s a follow-up YouTube video I did when I laced-up the LattePanda to a 7″ LCD and the companion Capacitive Touchscreen for the LimeSDR. This thing is awesome and very compact – it’s amazing. I’m planning to take those same components and mount them into a walnut case that I’m getting made from furniture-grade wood from Amana. The case will be sloped and will have enough room to put the LattePanda, LimeSDR, USB 3.0 hub, and *maybe* the PA – but I have to think that the PA will be outboard along with the Bandpass Filter Card assembly, too. I am planning to make a preselector/receive preamplifier for the LimeSDR that will reside in the case, too. The LattePanda not only has the Intel CherryTrail processor there for Windows, but it also has an integrated Arduino processor on the board along with the Arduino development software and the GPIO on the LattePanda to drive the BPF, PA, T/R switching, and the receive preamplifier/preselector/filter. No kidding – when this is all done this thing is going to be unstoppable. SDRAngel is open source so adding the communications for band switching will not be hard to do between Edouiard’s source in Win32 and to the Arduino through DLL calls. I’m even giving some serious thought about how LimeSDR-Mini will be included as an alternative with an even smaller footprint for this.

Looks like the LimeSDR is slowly starting to all come together as a fully usable system for ham radio thanks to the efforts of people like Marty. Remember that Lime are currently crowdfunding for their latest LimeSDR Mini product, which is a cheaper $139 version of their LimeSDR. Currently almost $85k of the required $100k has already been raised, with still 40 days to go.

LimeSDR Mini Crowdfunding: $99 Early Bird RX/TX, 12-Bit, 10 MHz – 3.5 GHz SDR

Back in June 2016 the first LimeSDR crowdfunding campaign completed raising over a million dollars in pre-orders at a cost of $249 – $299 per LimeSDR unit. THe LimeSDR is a RX and TX capable SDR with a frequency range of 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz, bandwidth of up to 61.44 MHz, 12-bit ADC and 2×2 RX/TX channels.

Recently LimeSDR have begun crowd funding for their latest product called the ‘LimeSDR Mini’. This is a smaller and cheaper unit with slightly reduced specifications. The main changes are the slightly restricted frequency range of 10 MHz – 3.5 GHz, and half the maximum bandwidth at 30.72 MHz. The mini also only has 1×1 TX/RX channels.

LimeSDR Comparison

Currently the LimeSDR Mini is being sold on the crowdfunding site CrowdSupply for $139, but the first 500 early bird backer can get the lower price of $99. Accessories such as an acrylic enclosure and set of whip antennas are also available for $40. Crowdfunding is due to end on October 30 and the units are expected to ship on Dec 31, 2017. Note that in the last few minutes that it took to write this article the number of pledges went up by 5 (started at 41), so we’d suggest being quick to claim the early bird if you are interested.

The LimeSDR Mini looks like it could compete favorably with the PlutoSDR, which is another recently released $99 SDR with TX capabilities. Both the PlutoSDR and LimeSDR Mini are 12-bit devices, but the LimeSDR Mini has the larger 30 MHz bandwidth available, and can tune lower. In contrast the PlutoSDR only has a stable bandwidth of about 4 MHz, although it can be pushed higher with dropped samples. The PlutoSDR also has a tuning range (with hack) of 70 MHz – 6 GHz, vs the 10 MHz – 3.5 GHz of the LimeSDR Mini. Another plus of the LimeSDR products is that they are fully open source.

These are exciting times for SDR enthusiasts with cheap TX capable radios now starting to proliferate on the market!

LimeSDR Mini Renderings
LimeSDR Mini Renderings

LimeSDR Transmitting Voice and Data with SDRAngel

Over on the LimeSDR facebook group Marty Wittrock (KN0CK) has been experimenting with his LimeSDR and SDRAngel. SDRAngel is a general purpose SDR program similar to SDR#/HDSDR/SDR-Console etc, but with the key difference that it is designed to incorporate TX features as well. SDRAngel has releases available for Linux and Windows.

Marty writes that in early August SDRAngel programmer Edouard (F4EXB) resolved most of the issues with LimeSDR compatibility and now TX and RX in SDRAngel with the LimeSDR works great.

SDRANGEL/LIMESDR WINDOWS UPDATE – WORKING!: …For the first time in 18 months the LimeSDR has a working Windows transmit and receive application..! Check out the video for more, but for those that don’t use Linux, you can now experience full transmit and receive using the Win32 SDRAngel version 3.5.5 and Zadig 2.2 that loads the LimeSDR driver…Just load Zadig first as you normally would to select the LimeSDR (after you’ve initially installed it) and then launch SDRAngel…The application will allow you to operate ANYWHERE from 160m to 70cm using any demodulator and modulator you wish (AM, FM, SSB, CW, and more!). I tested it this evening from 40m to 10m to 2m tonight and it works EXCELLENT..!! Get in while the gettin’ is good – A full-up transceiver app now exists for the LimeSDR and this is just the beginning..! 73 de KN0CK

Posted by Marty Wittrock on Tuesday, 15 August 2017

LIMESDR/SDRANGEL UPDATE: Yours truly the mad scientist, playing with the LimeSDR on HF at 7.0 MHz here within the shack (no external antennas applied) TRANSMITTING NO DELAY ON HF LOWER SIDEBAND USING SDRANGEL AND THE LIMESDR..!! FINALLY, an app that supports receive and transmit for the LimeSDR is available free of charge and WORKS PERFECTLY..!! See it for yourself on the attached video…And I do have the recipe for this since it’s on Linux (Ubuntu 16.04) for now…A Windows 7/10 build IS planned…A RED LETTER DAY FOR THE LIMESDR..!! #LimeSDR #SDRAngel #HF 🙂 !!

Posted by Marty Wittrock on Saturday, 12 August 2017

Some LimeSDR Demonstration Videos

Recently Michael DG0OPK wrote in and wanted to share some videos of the LimeSDR in action that he’s uploaded to YouTube. The first video shows LimeSDR running with the SDRangel software and receiving the 950 MHz mobile phone band. SDRangel appears to be GPU accelerated so the waterfall can show a lot of detail very quickly.

The second video shows the LimeSDR transmitting DVB-S/S2 on and ODROID XU4, and the signal being received on a PC using and Airspy, and being watched live with a standard DVB-S2 TV Card. The Odroid XU4 is a single board computer like the Raspberry Pi but much more powerful.

On his channel Michael also has some other LimeSDR videos that you can check out such as testing the LimeSDR with GNURadio on the 23cm band for full duplex DVB-S2, and running the LimeSDR at full speed 60fps, 50 MHz on a i7 PC.

The LimeSDR is a full duplex RX/TX capable SDR with a 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz frequency range, 12-bit ADC and up to 80 MHz of bandwidth. A unit currently a unit currently costs $289 USD on Crowd Supply.

Using a LimeSDR as a Simple 4G Repeater

Over on YouTube user Goat Industries has uploaded a video that shows him successfully using his LimeSDR as a 4G repeater. More information about his project to build a cell phone signal repeater can be found on his hackaday.io page, and he describes the project as follows:

In more remote areas it is often not financially viable for the cell network operator to build extra base stations for a small number of people and their phones/modems etc. Fortunately, this is not the end of the road as we can, in theory, build our own base stations and even create our own cells.

There are currently available two groups of devices that already claim to do this, one of which is reassuringly expensive and the other is just plain illegal! This project aims to democratise the situation enabling cost effective, hackable devices to be built that not only work properly but also conform to the telecoms regulations.

In his video he shows the repeater running on his LimeSDR. For software he uses Pothos to create the receiver and LimeSuite to control the LimeSDR settings.

The LimeSDR is advertised as a full duplex RX/TX capable SDR with a 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz frequency range, 12-bit ADC and up to 80 MHz of bandwidth. Back in June 2016 they surpassed their $500k goal, raising over $800k on the crowdfunding site Crowdsupply, and today it’s now up to over $1.1 million. Most crowdfunding backers have now received their units in the mail, but some are still waiting. We paid $199 USD for an early bird unit, and currently a preorder unit costs $289 USD on Crowd Supply.

LimeNET SDR Based Wireless Networks Crowdfunding Campaign

Following the success of the LimeSDR, the Lime team have started work on their next SDR project called ‘LimeNET’ which will eventually be released for crowdfunding on CrowdSupply. To be notified when the campaign is released you can sign up here.

The LimeNET SDR is essentially a high-end computer combined together with a LimeSDR board, and all placed in a small box. The goal is to create self contained base stations for cellular and IoT applications. LimeNET devices come in two flavors, the LimeNET Mini and the standard LimeNET.

LimeNET Mini

A software defined radio (SDR) small cell network in a box for mobile and IoT applications, based on an Intel i7 processor and the open source LimeSDR board. This combination makes it an ideal implementation for high data rate communication applications such as to 2-5G radio access to IoT nodes and much more.

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-7500U CPU 2-core 2.7/3.5 GHz
  • Memory: 32 GB DDR4 2133 MHz
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD
  • Connectivity: 1 x USB 3.1 type C, 1 x USB 3.1, 2x USB 3.0, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Radio: LimeSDR USB Type-A

LimeNET

A software defined radio (SDR) high capacity network in a box for mobile and IoT applications, based on an Intel i7 processor and the open source LimeSDR PCIe card. It covers the same applications as the mini version for wide area networks.

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6950X CPU 10-core 2011-3 140 W 3.0 GHz 25 MB Cache
  • Memory: 64 GB DDR4 2133 MHz
  • Storage: 1 TB SSD
  • Connectivity: 2 x USB 3.1, 4 x USB 3.0, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Radio: LimeSDR PCIe
The LimeNET Mini.
The LimeNET Mini.

The LimeNET press release reads:

Confronted with flat revenues, spiralling infrastructure costs and massively escalating data demands, the telco industry is facing a crisis point. It needs exponentially more cost-effective solutions, as well as new revenue streams, and needs to find them quickly. Operators face a simple choice; either revise their business models, or lose market share to new incumbents.

Lime Micro and Canonical are looking to turn the mobile telephony business model on its head. Telco hardware is expensive, slow to develop, and has proven a ‘break’ to innovation in the industry. By ‘open sourcing’ Lime Microsystems’ 5G and IoT capable SDR base station design, Lime and Canonical are looking to effectively ‘commoditise’ network hardware and shift the value centre towards software.

LimeSDR-based base stations can not only run cellular standards from 2G or 5G, as well as IoT protocols like LoRa, Sigfox, NB-IoT, LTE-M, Weightless and others but any type of wireless protocol. Open source base stations allow R&D departments to try out new ideas around industrial IoT, content broadcasting and many more. Commoditised base stations allow any enterprise to run their own base station and get spectrum from their operators as a service. Base stations can have new form factors as well, like being embedded into vending machines or attached to drones.

“It’s clear that existing telco business models are quickly running out of steam,” commented Maarten Ectors, VP IoT, Next-Gen Networks & Edge Cloud, Canonical, “and that operators need to find new revenue streams. Together with Lime Microsystems, we’re looking to initiate a ‘herding’ behaviour that will usher in the age of the largely software-enabled telco network. Through its open sourced SDR design Lime will encourage a wide range of manufacturers to produce more cost-effective base stations. And, following enormous interest in our first crowdfunding initiative, we already have the critical mass of developers required to deliver the significant software innovation the industry requires.”

“This kind of model is, without a doubt, where the industry needs to go,” commented Ebrahim Bushehri, CEO, Lime Microsystems. “There are several reasons why Canonical’s heavy commitment in this project over the past couple of years has been so important. For one, Canonical shares our vision of an entirely software-enabled future for telco and IoT networks. Secondly, Canonical’s efficient, hyper-secure IoT OS Ubuntu Core is the perfect platform to enable this vision. Thirdly, this collaboration has helped us to gather the critical mass of developers required to kick-start the programme.”

Over 3,600 developers are currently involved in efforts to create apps, called Snaps, for LimeSDR, with several free and paid-for apps having already appeared on the open community LimeSDR App Store, as well as Lime’s invite-only app store, LimeNET.

LimeSDR Unboxing and Initial Review

A few days ago we received our early bird LimeSDR unit from CrowdSupply. The LimeSDR is advertised as an RX/TX capable SDR with a 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz frequency range, 12-bit ADC and up to 80 MHz of bandwidth. Back in June 2016 they surpassed their $500k goal, raising over $800k on the crowdfunding site Crowdsupply. Just recently some of the first crowdfunding backers began to receive their units in the mail. We paid $199 USD for an early bird unit, and currently a preorder unit costs $289 USD on Crowd Supply.

Unboxing

Inside the shipping box is a smaller black and green box with the LimeSDR itself inside, and a short USB pigtail with extra power header. Note that no pigtails for the u.FL antenna connectors are provided, so you will need to source these yourself, but they can be found quite cheaply on Aliexpress.

The PCB itself is intricate and heavily populated with many components. You certainly to feel like you are getting your moneys worth of engineering effort with this SDR. An enclosure is probably highly recommended if you intend to take your LimeSDR out and about, as some of the SMD components look like they could be easily knocked off with a drop.

The parcel was declared at the full value, so this may be a problem for those in countries with low customs tax thresholds.

limsdr_box
limsdr_box2
limsdr_cct
limsdr_cct2

Driver and Software Installation

For this first initial review we decided to set the LimeSDR up in Windows, with SDR-Console V3, and try to get wideband reception and some simple transmit working.

Installation was a bit rocky. Firstly one criticism is that the online documentation is all over the place, and a lot of it seems to be out of date. It was very difficult to find the current USB drivers as many links redirected to the older drivers. Finally we found drivers that work on the Lime Suite page.

Secondly there have been some apparent changes with hardware revision 1.4 which is shipping to Crowd Supply backers.  This resulted in the current version of SDR-Console V3 being incompatible with the newly shipped boards, and throwing the error “Encountered an improper argument”. We had to search through the LimeSDR forums, and there we found a beta LimeSDR fix version of Console V3 released by Simon. This version worked with our board. 

Once we had the LimeSDR drivers and SDR-Console V3 installed we decided to update the firmware as we’d seen on the forums that the latest firmware supposedly improved a few things. Again, performing this task was quite confusing as there was several links to outdated documentation and software all over the place. Finally we found what we think is the latest instructions, which had us download Lime Suite which comes together with the PothosSDR software. In this version of Lime Suite there is an automatic firmware update option which downloaded and flashed the new firmware easily.

It’s clear that the LimeSDR is very much a development board made mainly for experimenters, but some decent up to date documentation and a quick start guide would help new users tremendously.

Problems with HF and reception below 700 MHz

By browsing the LimeSDR forums we came across a topic where several users had claimed that the LimeSDR v1.4 (the one shipped to CrowdSupply backers) has abysmal HF sensitivity, and poor sensitivity below 700 MHz. 

It seems that this lack of performance is due to the matching circuit which they have implemented. For better impedance matching at frequencies over 700 MHz they added a parallel 8.2 nH inductor. This unfortunately attenuates HF frequencies severely to the point of no reception, and also other frequencies below 700 MHz to some extent. This is a bit troubling as from the very beginning the LimeSDR has been advertised as working down to 100 kHz.

A hardware fix was found by forum user @sdr_research but this only works if you are comfortable taking a soldering iron to the board to remove that inductor. On this official blog post they also mention more fixes (EasyFix1 is the one recommended on the forums) to improve HF performance that include removing more components, and replacing some others. 

The HF fix for the LimeSDR. Remove this inductor.
The HF fix for the LimeSDR. Remove this inductor.

We performed the EasyFix1 mod, which involved removing one inductor on the PCB. Removal was very simple with a soldering iron. Even without a soldering iron it could probably be forcefully removed with some tweezers. After removing that inductor we saw HF spring back into life, with reception working all the way down to the MW broadcast AM band.

LF reception still seems to be a bit weak. We were able to receive an NDB down to about 300 kHz, but very weakly in comparison to other SDRs.

The image below shows the difference in HF reception before and after the mod.

Before and after the mod. Bottom waterfall shows signal levels before the mod, top waterfall shows signal levels after removing the inductor.
Before and after the mod. Bottom waterfall shows signal levels before the inductor mod, top waterfall shows signal levels after removing the inductor.

Fortunately it seems that LimeSDR is trying to make this right, and just today they issued an update that confirms the issue and offers a fix. They are offering an option for unshipped boards to be modified to improve HF performance before they ship out, and a replacement option for those who have already received boards. The deadline for applying for a modification is February 21, 2017.

Continue reading

LimeSDR and SDRAngel Running on a LattePanda

Thanks to Marty Wittrock for sharing with us his latest news about his experiences with the LimeSDR. Over on YouTube he’s uploaded a video showing that the LimeSDR can run perfectly on a ‘LattePanda‘ which is a full Win10 64-bit PC in a Raspberry Pi sized package. The one Marty uses costs about $209 with a fully activated Windows 10 licence and has 64G eMMC memory, a 1.44 GHz CPU and 4GB of RAM. The cheaper version with 2GB of RAM and 32GB eMMC memory only costs $119 USD. Of interest is that the LattePanda also comes with an Arduino co-processor for various GPIO projects, which could be useful for switching in and out various radio blocks like filters and LNAs.

In his video Marty shows that the SDRAngel software run the LimeSDR smoothly on the LattePanda, and he demonstrates receiving the 30M band. He writes:

Ladies and Gentlemen may I present to you: The LimeSDR operating on receive on the 30m Shortwave Band using SDRAngel running on a Windows 10, 64-bit, 4G (RAM) 64G (FLASH) operating at 1.8 GHz on a LattePanda – – THE SMALLEST WINDOWS 10 PC ON EARTH..! No kidding, this makes my MSI ‘hockey puck’ PC look monstrous…The LattePanda is about the same size as my LimeSDR and a VERY POWERFUL little PC, too…I’m INCREDIBLY impressed with this tiny PC…This Single Board Computer also has an integrated Arduino processor such that all the bandswitching and other functions required to make a Software Defined Transceiver will be very trivial to add-in…The ‘proof of concept’ is complete – – this shows that it CAN BE DONE to make the LimeSDR into a compact, wideband Software Defined Transceiver that can be run on a car battery if needed…Watch the video and see for yourself…CHEERS..!

In a second newer video he demonstrates the system running on a 7″ LCD touchscreen. He writes:

Here’s a follow-up YouTube video I did when I laced-up the LattePanda to a 7″ LCD and the companion Capacitive Touchscreen for the LimeSDR. This thing is awesome and very compact – it’s amazing. I’m planning to take those same components and mount them into a walnut case that I’m getting made from furniture-grade wood from Amana. The case will be sloped and will have enough room to put the LattePanda, LimeSDR, USB 3.0 hub, and *maybe* the PA – but I have to think that the PA will be outboard along with the Bandpass Filter Card assembly, too. I am planning to make a preselector/receive preamplifier for the LimeSDR that will reside in the case, too. The LattePanda not only has the Intel CherryTrail processor there for Windows, but it also has an integrated Arduino processor on the board along with the Arduino development software and the GPIO on the LattePanda to drive the BPF, PA, T/R switching, and the receive preamplifier/preselector/filter. No kidding – when this is all done this thing is going to be unstoppable. SDRAngel is open source so adding the communications for band switching will not be hard to do between Edouiard’s source in Win32 and to the Arduino through DLL calls. I’m even giving some serious thought about how LimeSDR-Mini will be included as an alternative with an even smaller footprint for this.

Looks like the LimeSDR is slowly starting to all come together as a fully usable system for ham radio thanks to the efforts of people like Marty. Remember that Lime are currently crowdfunding for their latest LimeSDR Mini product, which is a cheaper $139 version of their LimeSDR. Currently almost $85k of the required $100k has already been raised, with still 40 days to go.

LimeSDR Mini Crowdfunding: $99 Early Bird RX/TX, 12-Bit, 10 MHz – 3.5 GHz SDR

Back in June 2016 the first LimeSDR crowdfunding campaign completed raising over a million dollars in pre-orders at a cost of $249 – $299 per LimeSDR unit. THe LimeSDR is a RX and TX capable SDR with a frequency range of 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz, bandwidth of up to 61.44 MHz, 12-bit ADC and 2×2 RX/TX channels.

Recently LimeSDR have begun crowd funding for their latest product called the ‘LimeSDR Mini’. This is a smaller and cheaper unit with slightly reduced specifications. The main changes are the slightly restricted frequency range of 10 MHz – 3.5 GHz, and half the maximum bandwidth at 30.72 MHz. The mini also only has 1×1 TX/RX channels.

LimeSDR Comparison

Currently the LimeSDR Mini is being sold on the crowdfunding site CrowdSupply for $139, but the first 500 early bird backer can get the lower price of $99. Accessories such as an acrylic enclosure and set of whip antennas are also available for $40. Crowdfunding is due to end on October 30 and the units are expected to ship on Dec 31, 2017. Note that in the last few minutes that it took to write this article the number of pledges went up by 5 (started at 41), so we’d suggest being quick to claim the early bird if you are interested.

The LimeSDR Mini looks like it could compete favorably with the PlutoSDR, which is another recently released $99 SDR with TX capabilities. Both the PlutoSDR and LimeSDR Mini are 12-bit devices, but the LimeSDR Mini has the larger 30 MHz bandwidth available, and can tune lower. In contrast the PlutoSDR only has a stable bandwidth of about 4 MHz, although it can be pushed higher with dropped samples. The PlutoSDR also has a tuning range (with hack) of 70 MHz – 6 GHz, vs the 10 MHz – 3.5 GHz of the LimeSDR Mini. Another plus of the LimeSDR products is that they are fully open source.

These are exciting times for SDR enthusiasts with cheap TX capable radios now starting to proliferate on the market!

LimeSDR Mini Renderings
LimeSDR Mini Renderings

LimeSDR Transmitting Voice and Data with SDRAngel

Over on the LimeSDR facebook group Marty Wittrock (KN0CK) has been experimenting with his LimeSDR and SDRAngel. SDRAngel is a general purpose SDR program similar to SDR#/HDSDR/SDR-Console etc, but with the key difference that it is designed to incorporate TX features as well. SDRAngel has releases available for Linux and Windows.

Marty writes that in early August SDRAngel programmer Edouard (F4EXB) resolved most of the issues with LimeSDR compatibility and now TX and RX in SDRAngel with the LimeSDR works great.

SDRANGEL/LIMESDR WINDOWS UPDATE – WORKING!: …For the first time in 18 months the LimeSDR has a working Windows transmit and receive application..! Check out the video for more, but for those that don’t use Linux, you can now experience full transmit and receive using the Win32 SDRAngel version 3.5.5 and Zadig 2.2 that loads the LimeSDR driver…Just load Zadig first as you normally would to select the LimeSDR (after you’ve initially installed it) and then launch SDRAngel…The application will allow you to operate ANYWHERE from 160m to 70cm using any demodulator and modulator you wish (AM, FM, SSB, CW, and more!). I tested it this evening from 40m to 10m to 2m tonight and it works EXCELLENT..!! Get in while the gettin’ is good – A full-up transceiver app now exists for the LimeSDR and this is just the beginning..! 73 de KN0CK

Posted by Marty Wittrock on Tuesday, 15 August 2017

LIMESDR/SDRANGEL UPDATE: Yours truly the mad scientist, playing with the LimeSDR on HF at 7.0 MHz here within the shack (no external antennas applied) TRANSMITTING NO DELAY ON HF LOWER SIDEBAND USING SDRANGEL AND THE LIMESDR..!! FINALLY, an app that supports receive and transmit for the LimeSDR is available free of charge and WORKS PERFECTLY..!! See it for yourself on the attached video…And I do have the recipe for this since it’s on Linux (Ubuntu 16.04) for now…A Windows 7/10 build IS planned…A RED LETTER DAY FOR THE LIMESDR..!! #LimeSDR #SDRAngel #HF 🙂 !!

Posted by Marty Wittrock on Saturday, 12 August 2017

Some LimeSDR Demonstration Videos

Recently Michael DG0OPK wrote in and wanted to share some videos of the LimeSDR in action that he’s uploaded to YouTube. The first video shows LimeSDR running with the SDRangel software and receiving the 950 MHz mobile phone band. SDRangel appears to be GPU accelerated so the waterfall can show a lot of detail very quickly.

The second video shows the LimeSDR transmitting DVB-S/S2 on and ODROID XU4, and the signal being received on a PC using and Airspy, and being watched live with a standard DVB-S2 TV Card. The Odroid XU4 is a single board computer like the Raspberry Pi but much more powerful.

On his channel Michael also has some other LimeSDR videos that you can check out such as testing the LimeSDR with GNURadio on the 23cm band for full duplex DVB-S2, and running the LimeSDR at full speed 60fps, 50 MHz on a i7 PC.

The LimeSDR is a full duplex RX/TX capable SDR with a 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz frequency range, 12-bit ADC and up to 80 MHz of bandwidth. A unit currently a unit currently costs $289 USD on Crowd Supply.

Using a LimeSDR as a Simple 4G Repeater

Over on YouTube user Goat Industries has uploaded a video that shows him successfully using his LimeSDR as a 4G repeater. More information about his project to build a cell phone signal repeater can be found on his hackaday.io page, and he describes the project as follows:

In more remote areas it is often not financially viable for the cell network operator to build extra base stations for a small number of people and their phones/modems etc. Fortunately, this is not the end of the road as we can, in theory, build our own base stations and even create our own cells.

There are currently available two groups of devices that already claim to do this, one of which is reassuringly expensive and the other is just plain illegal! This project aims to democratise the situation enabling cost effective, hackable devices to be built that not only work properly but also conform to the telecoms regulations.

In his video he shows the repeater running on his LimeSDR. For software he uses Pothos to create the receiver and LimeSuite to control the LimeSDR settings.

The LimeSDR is advertised as a full duplex RX/TX capable SDR with a 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz frequency range, 12-bit ADC and up to 80 MHz of bandwidth. Back in June 2016 they surpassed their $500k goal, raising over $800k on the crowdfunding site Crowdsupply, and today it’s now up to over $1.1 million. Most crowdfunding backers have now received their units in the mail, but some are still waiting. We paid $199 USD for an early bird unit, and currently a preorder unit costs $289 USD on Crowd Supply.

LimeNET SDR Based Wireless Networks Crowdfunding Campaign

Following the success of the LimeSDR, the Lime team have started work on their next SDR project called ‘LimeNET’ which will eventually be released for crowdfunding on CrowdSupply. To be notified when the campaign is released you can sign up here.

The LimeNET SDR is essentially a high-end computer combined together with a LimeSDR board, and all placed in a small box. The goal is to create self contained base stations for cellular and IoT applications. LimeNET devices come in two flavors, the LimeNET Mini and the standard LimeNET.

LimeNET Mini

A software defined radio (SDR) small cell network in a box for mobile and IoT applications, based on an Intel i7 processor and the open source LimeSDR board. This combination makes it an ideal implementation for high data rate communication applications such as to 2-5G radio access to IoT nodes and much more.

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-7500U CPU 2-core 2.7/3.5 GHz
  • Memory: 32 GB DDR4 2133 MHz
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD
  • Connectivity: 1 x USB 3.1 type C, 1 x USB 3.1, 2x USB 3.0, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Radio: LimeSDR USB Type-A

LimeNET

A software defined radio (SDR) high capacity network in a box for mobile and IoT applications, based on an Intel i7 processor and the open source LimeSDR PCIe card. It covers the same applications as the mini version for wide area networks.

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6950X CPU 10-core 2011-3 140 W 3.0 GHz 25 MB Cache
  • Memory: 64 GB DDR4 2133 MHz
  • Storage: 1 TB SSD
  • Connectivity: 2 x USB 3.1, 4 x USB 3.0, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Radio: LimeSDR PCIe
The LimeNET Mini.
The LimeNET Mini.

The LimeNET press release reads:

Confronted with flat revenues, spiralling infrastructure costs and massively escalating data demands, the telco industry is facing a crisis point. It needs exponentially more cost-effective solutions, as well as new revenue streams, and needs to find them quickly. Operators face a simple choice; either revise their business models, or lose market share to new incumbents.

Lime Micro and Canonical are looking to turn the mobile telephony business model on its head. Telco hardware is expensive, slow to develop, and has proven a ‘break’ to innovation in the industry. By ‘open sourcing’ Lime Microsystems’ 5G and IoT capable SDR base station design, Lime and Canonical are looking to effectively ‘commoditise’ network hardware and shift the value centre towards software.

LimeSDR-based base stations can not only run cellular standards from 2G or 5G, as well as IoT protocols like LoRa, Sigfox, NB-IoT, LTE-M, Weightless and others but any type of wireless protocol. Open source base stations allow R&D departments to try out new ideas around industrial IoT, content broadcasting and many more. Commoditised base stations allow any enterprise to run their own base station and get spectrum from their operators as a service. Base stations can have new form factors as well, like being embedded into vending machines or attached to drones.

“It’s clear that existing telco business models are quickly running out of steam,” commented Maarten Ectors, VP IoT, Next-Gen Networks & Edge Cloud, Canonical, “and that operators need to find new revenue streams. Together with Lime Microsystems, we’re looking to initiate a ‘herding’ behaviour that will usher in the age of the largely software-enabled telco network. Through its open sourced SDR design Lime will encourage a wide range of manufacturers to produce more cost-effective base stations. And, following enormous interest in our first crowdfunding initiative, we already have the critical mass of developers required to deliver the significant software innovation the industry requires.”

“This kind of model is, without a doubt, where the industry needs to go,” commented Ebrahim Bushehri, CEO, Lime Microsystems. “There are several reasons why Canonical’s heavy commitment in this project over the past couple of years has been so important. For one, Canonical shares our vision of an entirely software-enabled future for telco and IoT networks. Secondly, Canonical’s efficient, hyper-secure IoT OS Ubuntu Core is the perfect platform to enable this vision. Thirdly, this collaboration has helped us to gather the critical mass of developers required to kick-start the programme.”

Over 3,600 developers are currently involved in efforts to create apps, called Snaps, for LimeSDR, with several free and paid-for apps having already appeared on the open community LimeSDR App Store, as well as Lime’s invite-only app store, LimeNET.

LimeSDR Unboxing and Initial Review

A few days ago we received our early bird LimeSDR unit from CrowdSupply. The LimeSDR is advertised as an RX/TX capable SDR with a 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz frequency range, 12-bit ADC and up to 80 MHz of bandwidth. Back in June 2016 they surpassed their $500k goal, raising over $800k on the crowdfunding site Crowdsupply. Just recently some of the first crowdfunding backers began to receive their units in the mail. We paid $199 USD for an early bird unit, and currently a preorder unit costs $289 USD on Crowd Supply.

Unboxing

Inside the shipping box is a smaller black and green box with the LimeSDR itself inside, and a short USB pigtail with extra power header. Note that no pigtails for the u.FL antenna connectors are provided, so you will need to source these yourself, but they can be found quite cheaply on Aliexpress.

The PCB itself is intricate and heavily populated with many components. You certainly to feel like you are getting your moneys worth of engineering effort with this SDR. An enclosure is probably highly recommended if you intend to take your LimeSDR out and about, as some of the SMD components look like they could be easily knocked off with a drop.

The parcel was declared at the full value, so this may be a problem for those in countries with low customs tax thresholds.

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Driver and Software Installation

For this first initial review we decided to set the LimeSDR up in Windows, with SDR-Console V3, and try to get wideband reception and some simple transmit working.

Installation was a bit rocky. Firstly one criticism is that the online documentation is all over the place, and a lot of it seems to be out of date. It was very difficult to find the current USB drivers as many links redirected to the older drivers. Finally we found drivers that work on the Lime Suite page.

Secondly there have been some apparent changes with hardware revision 1.4 which is shipping to Crowd Supply backers.  This resulted in the current version of SDR-Console V3 being incompatible with the newly shipped boards, and throwing the error “Encountered an improper argument”. We had to search through the LimeSDR forums, and there we found a beta LimeSDR fix version of Console V3 released by Simon. This version worked with our board. 

Once we had the LimeSDR drivers and SDR-Console V3 installed we decided to update the firmware as we’d seen on the forums that the latest firmware supposedly improved a few things. Again, performing this task was quite confusing as there was several links to outdated documentation and software all over the place. Finally we found what we think is the latest instructions, which had us download Lime Suite which comes together with the PothosSDR software. In this version of Lime Suite there is an automatic firmware update option which downloaded and flashed the new firmware easily.

It’s clear that the LimeSDR is very much a development board made mainly for experimenters, but some decent up to date documentation and a quick start guide would help new users tremendously.

Problems with HF and reception below 700 MHz

By browsing the LimeSDR forums we came across a topic where several users had claimed that the LimeSDR v1.4 (the one shipped to CrowdSupply backers) has abysmal HF sensitivity, and poor sensitivity below 700 MHz. 

It seems that this lack of performance is due to the matching circuit which they have implemented. For better impedance matching at frequencies over 700 MHz they added a parallel 8.2 nH inductor. This unfortunately attenuates HF frequencies severely to the point of no reception, and also other frequencies below 700 MHz to some extent. This is a bit troubling as from the very beginning the LimeSDR has been advertised as working down to 100 kHz.

A hardware fix was found by forum user @sdr_research but this only works if you are comfortable taking a soldering iron to the board to remove that inductor. On this official blog post they also mention more fixes (EasyFix1 is the one recommended on the forums) to improve HF performance that include removing more components, and replacing some others. 

The HF fix for the LimeSDR. Remove this inductor.
The HF fix for the LimeSDR. Remove this inductor.

We performed the EasyFix1 mod, which involved removing one inductor on the PCB. Removal was very simple with a soldering iron. Even without a soldering iron it could probably be forcefully removed with some tweezers. After removing that inductor we saw HF spring back into life, with reception working all the way down to the MW broadcast AM band.

LF reception still seems to be a bit weak. We were able to receive an NDB down to about 300 kHz, but very weakly in comparison to other SDRs.

The image below shows the difference in HF reception before and after the mod.

Before and after the mod. Bottom waterfall shows signal levels before the mod, top waterfall shows signal levels after removing the inductor.
Before and after the mod. Bottom waterfall shows signal levels before the inductor mod, top waterfall shows signal levels after removing the inductor.

Fortunately it seems that LimeSDR is trying to make this right, and just today they issued an update that confirms the issue and offers a fix. They are offering an option for unshipped boards to be modified to improve HF performance before they ship out, and a replacement option for those who have already received boards. The deadline for applying for a modification is February 21, 2017.

Continue reading

LimeSDR First Batch Shipping Now

The LimeSDR is a RX/TX capable SDR with a 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz frequency range, 12-bit ADC and 61.44 MHz bandwidth. Back in June 2016 they surpassed their $500k goal, raising over $800k on the crowdfunding site Crowdsupply. 

We predict that the LimeSDR will essentially be seen as an improved HackRF SDR, perfect for experimenting with and reverse engineering RF devices without the 8-bit ADC, poor sensitivity and half-duplex limitations of the HackRF. They also seem to be active in promoting software for the device, writing that they will eventually have an app store like marketplace for various LimeSDR apps.

Recently the LimeSDR has completed manufacturing of its first batch, and is now ready to ship to backers. A single LimeSDR right now costs $289 USD to preorder, and early bird supporters were able to snag one for $199 USD. They write:

Shipping Will Start in 24 Hours
The first batch of LimeSDRs and accessories has arrived safely at the Crowd Supply warehouse.

Address Changes Must Be Processed Now

Shipping of the first batch of orders will commence within the next 24 hours. If you need to change your address, you should do it now by logging into your Crowd Supply account and viewing your order.

When Will My Order Ship?

The only way to know to know with certainty if your order is shipping within the next few days is if you receive a shipping confirmation email from Crowd Supply. The logistics of shipping hundreds of varied orders around the world is complex enough that it’s not possible to tell you your exact place in line. For example, Crowd Supply will likely send several test shipments to different countries to gauge how well they get through customs and the timing of future shipments to those countries may be affected by the results.

When Will My Order Arrive?

Once your order has shipped, you will receive a shipping confirmation email with a tracking number. For orders destined for outside the US, it is not uncommon for the tracking information to cease being updated after it leaves the US, though for some countries (e.g., UK, Germany, Australia) the packages can continue to be tracked using your national postal website and the same tracking number. If there is a delay in delivering your package, you should check with your local customs office to make sure they are not holding it and waiting for you to pick it up.

We look forward to beginning to use our own LimeSDR and will post reviews when it arrives.

Some of the LimeSDR's ready for shipping.
Some of the LimeSDR’s ready for shipping.