The PortaPack is an addon created by Jared Boone for the HackRF software defined radio. It costs $200 USD at the sharebrained store and together with a USB battery pack it allows you to go completely portable with your HackRF. The HackRF is a multi-purpose SDR which can both receive and transmit anything (as long as you program it in) from 1 MHz to 6 GHz.
Since we last posted about the PortaPack many new features have been added, and the firmware has matured significantly. Now the official PortaPack firmware allows you to receive and demodulate SSB, AM, NFM, WFM and display up to an 18 MHz wide waterfall. You can also decode marine AIS, the automobile tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and utility ITRON ERT meters.
There is also a popular fork of the official PortaPack firmware called portapack-havoc, which is created by a dev who goes by the handle ‘furrtek’. This firmware is a bit more risky in terms of the trouble it can get you into as it enables several new features including:
Close call – See if anyone is transmitting near to you
A CW generator
a GPS and various other jammers
an LCR transmitter – the wireless protocol used in France for programming traffic related signage
a microphone transmitter
a pocsag receiver and transmitter – receive and send to pagers
a PWM RSSI output – useful for crude automatic direction finding
an RDS transmitter – transmit radio station text data to compatible broadcast FM radios
a soundboard – play a stored bank of wav sounds on a frequency
an SSTV tranmitter – transmit slow scan TV signals
an OOK transmitter – control on-off-keying devices such as doorbells.
Below we’ve created a YouTube playlist showing several videos that show the portapack in action.
PortaPack H1 Firmware 20160222
And below we show a tweet from @furrtek showing off the recently added SSTV transmit feature, and a tweet from @giorgiofox showing off the microphone transmit feature.
To receive Iridium Jared used a simple ceramic patch antenna mounted on a piece of cheap copper clad fibreglass. This simple antenna was good enough to receive the Iridium signals with good strength. With this set up Jared was able to easily go outside and receive some packets and record them. He writes his next steps are to try and run the Iridium pager decoder on them and see what packets he captured.
The HackRF PortaPack is a portable LCD screen with control interface and processor that connects to a HackRF software defined radio. The PortaPack’s goal is to allow for portable RF spectrum visualization, tuning and eventually demodulation of many modes. It has been in development from around the time of the August 2013 HackRF kickstarter and is now almost ready to be shipped out to the initial backers. For more information about the PortaPack see this Hak5 segment that we previously posted about where Jared Boone the inventor of the PortaPack is interviewed.
In his post Jared writes:
Getting the PortaPack H1 ready for shipping was a long slog. And as is my way, I took a lot of detours along the way. I incorporated a lightweight operating system (ChibiOS) into the firmware. I built a simple UI framework that would support arrow-key navigation, with touch as an option where appropriate. I developed a sophisticated test jig (based on this) to ensure the units I ship work correctly. I designed a milled aluminum case that I’ll offer as an option. And I finished and tested all the units myself, including doing failure analysis on a bunch of PortaPacks. I learned a great deal, and hope that my next product development cycle will be much easier and faster.
Because of all the manufacturing effort, work on the firmware hasn’t advanced very far. At this point, the PortaPack is mostly useful as a basic narrowband AM/FM receiver. But there’s still a lot of capability to be tapped in the HackRF ARM processors! I’m eager to get back to firmware, and implement more signal analysis and capture functionality, along with some digital modes demodulation and decoding support.
In this Hak5 episode Darren discusses the HackRF PortaPack which is a portable LCD screen device that connects to a HackRF SDR and allows portable frequency spectrum visualization. The PortaPack is currently under development and in the future it will allow demodulation of multiple audio modes and possibly digital demodulation and recording capabilities as well.
Later in the episode Shannon presents a tutorial on HDSDR, an SDR GUI alternative to SDR#. She shows how to install and use the HDSDR program.