Tagged: R820T

RTL-SDR Tutorial: Following Trunked Radio with Unitrunker

The popular trunking decoding software Unitrunker now supports the RTL2832U R820T RTL-SDR directly in its new version. This means that extra SDR receiver software like SDR# is no longer required to use Unitrunker.

You can download the latest version of Unitrunker here.

In a normal radio system, one company (or talkgroup) might use a single frequency for radio communications. However, this is very inefficient as the frequency may not be in use for the majority of the time. In a trunked radio system, a small set number of frequencies are shared between a large number of talkgroups. Each radio receives a special computer controlled control channel. The control channel determines a vacant frequency that a particular talkgroup should use. This helps to make radio frequency allocations more efficient.

Because a talkgroup might switch between various frequencies often, it can make listening to a conversation difficult for radio scanners. Unitrunker can be used to decode the control channel and follow a voice conversation as it hops across various frequencies. With two RTL-SDR dongles you can set up a trunking receiver station with just Unitrunker. What follows below is a tutorial on how to set this up.

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RTL_HPSDR: RTL-SDR to HPSDR Translation Server

The High Performance Software Defined Radio (HPSDR) project is an open source SDR project that aims to create a modular SDR for ham radio use. The idea is that users only need to include the specific HPSDR hardware that they need for their particular application.

Recently, Richard Koch has written a Linux based tool called RTL_HPSDR which allows RTL-SDR based dongles to be used with HPSDR software, such as cuSDR64 which is capable of displaying and controlling up to seven receiver slices simultaneously and PowerSDR which can display and control up to four.

Using his tool Richard was able to get seven R820T RTL-SDR dongles running simultaneously on an EKB311 Quad core ARM Cortex A9 based mini-pc using a USB 2.0 hub with a modified power supply to provide [email protected]

Seven RTL-SDR Setup.
Seven RTL-SDR USB Setup
Five RTL-SDR Dongles used with RTL_HPSDR and csSDR64.
Five RTL-SDR Dongles used with RTL_HPSDR and csSDR64
Two RTL-SDR dongles running on PowerSDR.
Two RTL-SDR dongles running on PowerSDR

 

Review of Various Lesser Known RTL-SDR Dongles

While the standard R820T dongles are the cheapest, most popular and best overall performing, there are other lesser known dongles variants out there which contain RTL2832 chips. Gough Lui has reviewed two lesser known dongles with Belling Lee (PAL) connectors on his blog.

One dongle uses the FC0013 tuner, and the other uses the R820T chip. Gough opens the dongles up and inspects their electronics and gives his opinions on the design.

One of the alternative R280T models with PAL antenna connectors
One of the alternative R280T models with a PAL antenna connector

AirSpy – A New 12Bit, 20Msps SDR Dongle Prototype by the Author of SDRSHarp

AirSpy is a new SDR Dongle currently being prototyped by the author of the popular SDRSharp software receiver platform. The technical specifications are as follows

– 24 – 1750 MHz range
– 12bit ADC @ 20msps
– Cortex M4F @ 204 MHz
– 10 MHz panoramic spectrum view
– Highly programmable / customizable

AirSpy also uses the R820T tuner, which is commonly used in the RTL-SDR as well.

Compared to the RTL-SDRs 8bit [email protected], this is a large improvement, but we hope it will not cost much more than the RTL-SDR or FunCube.

Currently, if you want more information on the dongle there is only an AirSpy Yahoo Group available.

AirSpy Prototype Front

Potential Major Security Flaw on HP Laptop Discovered with RTL-SDR

Over on Reddit, user cronek discovered by using his RTL-SDR that the microphone on his HP EliteBook 8460p laptop computer was continuously and unintentionally transmitting the audio from the built in microphone at 24 MHz in FM modulation. He found that the only requirement needed for the microphone to transmit was that the laptop needed to be turned on – even muting the microphone did nothing to stop the transmission.

Click here to read the original post.

I accidentally stumbled upon a signal in the 24MHz range, appearing to be 4 carriers. I tuned to it and heard silence, then someone came into my office and started talking and I could hear them speak. The signal appeared to be coming from my other laptop (not the one running the SDR) and was pretty weak (my antenna, the crappy one that comes with the dongle, stuck to a metal stapler was right next to the HP laptop).

This is of potential concern as as the US Military is apparently transitioning to this particular laptop. However, this may be an isolated incident, as in the thread cronek explains that other laptops he tested did not display this behavior.

HP Laptop Microphone Leak at 24 MHz

ViewRF – RTL-SDR Spectrum Analyzer Software for the BeagleBone Black Released

Last month we showed a video of a spectrum analyzer project by Stephen Ong. He used a BeagleBone Black (mini embedded Linux capable computer similar to a Raspberry Pi), a touch capable LCD screen, and an RTL-SDR dongle to create a portable spectrum analyzer.

Now Stephen has released ‘ViewRF’, which is the software that powers his spectrum analyzer. It is released under the GPL licence. Also on his post are the download and install instructions.

Spectrum Analyzer using Beaglebone Black and RTL-SDR

More Comparisons Between the E4000, R820T, FC0013 and Linrad and SDRSharp

A few days ago we posted a video by sm5bsz showing some comparisons between the E4000, R820T and FC0013 tuners, and also a comparison between the special linearity gain mode driver in Linrad and standard Osmocom driver in SDRSharp.

Now sm5bsz, programmer of Linrad and the special gain modes for the E4000 has done another test using only Linrad, which more fairly demonstrates the difference between the various tuners, and the effect of the special gain drivers in Linearity mode. He writes

In this video RTL2832 dongles are compared for sensitivity, spurs and intermodulation. The difference between the Linrad linearity mode and the original Osmocom gain setting is demonstrated as well as spurs in R820T and FC0013.
Which one to prefer depends on the local RF Environment and whether a selective filter is used between the antenna and the dongle.

donglecmp3

Note: The Linrad vs SDRSharp video has been removed by the uploader.

Finally in this video, he also compares the standard Osmocom driver to the sensitivity mode available in the modified gain profile drivers. He writes

The sensitivity mode has very poor performance for signals far away from the passband, but it allows about 10 dB better dynamic range for interferences within the passband. Sensitivity mode is for usage with a selective preamplifier while the Osmocom gain mode is a reasonable compromise. The Linrad linearity gain mode is for use without filters in difficult RF Environments.

e4000 sensitivity mode

Linrad can be downloaded from here and the modified Osmocom drivers with linearity and sensitivity gain profiles for the E4000 can be downloaded here. SDRSharp can also use the modified Osmocom drivers with Linearity and Sensitivity modes with this plugin by Zefie.

Perseids Meteor Reflection Observations with the RTL-SDR

In this video YouTube user ek6rsc shows a timelapse of meteor reflection observations during the yearly Perseids meteor shower which occurred in 2013 during August 10-15. To do this he uses an R820T RTL-SDR tuned to 59.25 MHz, and the HROFFT software to do the recording.

Meteors entering the atmosphere can cause radio frequency reflections which may allow extremely distant radio signals to be received briefly. Reception of such a signal may be a good indicator that a meteor has fallen. A good informational guide on meteor scatter with the RTL-SDR can be found in this pdf file by Marcus Leech.

2013 Perseids Aug10-15 radio observations Meteor reflection 59.25Mhz