Tagged: raspberry pi

Raspberry Pi 4 Released: Improvements to CPU, Networking, USB, RAM and more

The Raspberry Pi is the most popular credit sized computing board in the world. It is commonly used as a low cost and portable computing platform for SDRs like the RTL-SDR. Today the Raspberry Pi 4 was released, bringing us a new US$35 single board computer with many improvements. Some of the main improvements that make the Pi 4 great for software defined radios are listed below:

CPU: The Pi 4 uses a Quad-Core Broadcom ARM A72 clocked at 1.5 GHz. This chip should be significantly faster compared to the older chip used on the Pi3B+ with performance now being similar to that of the Tinkerboard. This will be especially useful for CPU intensive SDR applications like the direction finding and passive radar software for our coherent 4-tuner RTL-SDR known as the KerberosSDR. It should also help allow OpenWebRX servers to serve more simultaneous users, allow graphical programs like GQRX to run smoother, and allow for higher sample rates on higher end SDRs.

GPU: The new faster GPU should help graphical SDR programs run smoother.

RAM: The Pi 4 comes with three RAM options, either 1GB, 2GB or 4GB of RAM. The versions with more RAM will be great for memory intensive applications such as GNU Radio (and compiling GNU Radio). It will also allow more programs to run in the background, and perhaps combined with the improved CPU speed allow for multiple SDRs to be used on demanding tasks.

Networking: The Pi 4 finally support Gigabit Ethernet which will be very useful to people using the board as an SDR server over the internet.

USB: There are now two USB 3.0 ports available which means that USB 3.0 SDRs like the LimeSDR could in theory be used at higher sample rates on the Pi 4.

There are also many other improvements such as dual 4K HDMI ports, a USB-C power supply port and faster SD card transfers.

Raspberry Pi 4 Improvements
Raspberry Pi 4 Improvements

It is not yet known if the very useful Raspberry Pi specific software known as RPiTX will continue to function on the new Pi 4. RPiTX is software that turns Raspberry Pi units into fully functional RF transmitters without the need for any additional transmitting hardware - just attach an antenna wire to a GPIO pin. It works by modulating the GPIO pin in such a way to create almost any type of RF transmission. RPiTX only functions on the specific proprietary Broadcom CPU chips that the Raspberry Pi's use. The Pi 4 does continue to use a Broadcom CPU, so we are hopeful.

The new changes bring the Raspberry Pi up to speed with rivals like the Tinkerboard, but at a lower price and with a much better amount of software and OS support provided. The boards currently cost $35 for the 1GB version, $45 for the 2GB version and $55 for the 4GB version. They are sold via local resellers which can be found on the official Pi 4 product page.

An RTL-SDR and Pi 3 Based Ground Station for Simulated CubeSats

CubeSats are small and light satellites that can these days be built and launched into orbit by almost anyone with a small budget of roughly $40,000. They are a great way for schools and other organizations to get into a space based technology project. A "simulated" CubeSat is one that is not designed to be really launched into space, and is made from low cost hardware. The idea is that simulated CubeSats can be used as tools to help demystify the inner workings of satellites to the public and help CubeSat builders get experience and competence before building the real thing.

A Simulated CubeSat made from a Solar Panel board, Pi Zero, UPS and Tranceiver.
A Simulated CubeSat made from a Solar Panel board, Pi Zero, UPS and Transceiver.

A team from AMSAT have been working on creating open source CubeSat simulator hardware and software. In order to demonstrate the RF capabilities of the simulator a ground station simulator is also required. Recently the team have uploaded instructions on creating a Raspberry Pi and RTL-SDR based ground station.

If you're interested in the CubeSat simulator hardware itself, there was a presentation held back in 2018 that may be of interest to you. According to the presentation somewhere between 30% - 50% of CubeSats fail as soon as they're deployed, so building competence with simulated hardware is a good goal.

2018 AMSAT William A. Tynan W3XO Memorial Space Symposium - Saturday Sessions

A Raspberry Pi and RTL-SDR Based Boombox

Thank you to Walter P. for writing in and sharing with us his conversion of an old analog boombox into a fully functional wideband software defined radio based on an RTL-SDR dongle and upconverter.

Walters Ghettoblaster RTL-SDR Radio
Walters Boombox RTL-SDR Radio

Inside the boombox Walter stripped away the analog circuitry and replaced it with a new LCD screen, Raspberry Pi, RTL-SDR, upconverter and an audio amplifier. Four rotary switches on top of the radio are used to control the frequency, demod mode and volume, and there is also a numerical keypad which can be used to enter the frequency directly. 5V and HF antenna connectors have been added to the side, as well as an upconverter enable switch on top. Walter also added a Spyserver mode to the software, which allows you to connect to the radio over WiFi with SDR#, although he notes that using the integrated Pi WiFi module seems to introduce noise on the speakers.

If you're interested in building a similar device, Walter has provided the full Python code and installation instructions for his build.

Edit 09 May 19: It was pointed out that the word "ghettoblaster" could be considered offensive in some cultures. We have changed the word in our article to "boombox" and apologize for any unintended offence.

RaspBRadio - ghettoblaster with sdr radio scanner inside

Reaching Across Europe with a Raspberry Pi Zero and WsprryPi

Over on YouTube user Techminds has uploaded a video that shows how he is using a Raspberry Pi Zero to transmit WSPR. To do this he uses the WsprryPi software which allows you to transmit WSPR by connecting an antenna directly to a GPIO pin on the Pi Zero. With this no extra hardware is required, although a filter is highly recommended to reduce spurious emissions from harmonics.

In his test Tech Minds directly connected the Pi Zero to an unun and HF wire antenna and ran WsprryPi. His results showed that even with the tiny 10mW output power of the Pi Zero's GPIO port his WSPR messages were able to reach several receivers halfway across Europe, and even to Iceland and Morocco from his home in the UK.

WSPR is an amateur radio digital HF mode designed to be decodable even if the signal is transmitted with very low power and is very weak. It can be used to help determine HF radio propagation conditions as WSPR reception reports are typically automatically uploaded to wsprnet.

WSPR - Weak Signal Propagation Reporter - From A Pi Zero ?

A Portable RTL-SDR Based ADS-B Receiver with Display and 3D Printed Enclosure

Over on Hackaday.io user nathan.matsuda has written about his RTL-SDR based hand held ADS-B aircraft receiver with display and 3D printed enclosure.

His initial idea was to create a flexible and open portable SDR device, however keeping the device open and built for general use meant increased complexity which quickly slowed his progress. Instead [Nathan] decided to focus on just ADS-B for his portable device as living near an airport he’d been interested in aircraft tracking since his first SDR arrived.

The device consists of a Raspberry Zero, RTL-SDR, 3.5″ IPS LCD and a battery pack for portability. For software he uses dump1090 with some custom code for the map plotting. Together with a 3D printed case and some buttons, the result is a very professional looking portable aircraft tracking device.

Hopefully Nathan will continue updating his project page so that others may replicate it on their own.

Raspberry Pi Zero and RTL-SDR Portable ADS-B Receiver
Raspberry Pi Zero and RTL-SDR Portable ADS-B Receiver

YouTube Tutorial: Software Set up for a Portable Raspberry Pi and RTL-SDR Based NOAA Weather Satellite Receiver

Last year in December we posted about Matt's element14 sponsored video which showed us how to create a portable briefcase contained NOAA satellite received based on a Raspberry Pi and RTL-SDR dongle. The build consisted of a heavy duty briefcase, modified ATX PSU and stripped down LCD monitor panel. This build resulted in a rugged and portable receiver. The full series of videos demonstrating the briefcase, ATX PSU conversion, LCD teardown, and NOAA satellite receiver demo can be found on his YouTube Playlist.

In his latest video Matt goes over the software installation procedure for creating an automated NOAA weather satellite receiver on the Raspberry Pi. He uses gpredict for predicting the satellite passes, and the Raspberry Pi version of WXtoImg for decoding the images. The rest of the video shows how to set up the software for your particular location, and how to set up decoding automation.

How To Set Up a Raspberry Pi as a NOAA Satellite Receiver with RTL-SDR

Creating Smart Home Automation Devices with Wireless Power Plugs, an RTL-SDR and RPiTX

Over on his YouTube channel ModernHam has created a video showing him using an RTL-SDR and Raspberry Pi with RPiTX to record and replay the signal generated by the remote of a wireless power plug. A wireless power plug allows you to turn an AC wall outlet on/of remotely via a remote control. Controlling them with a Raspberry Pi can be a simple way to add home automation. One example ModernHam gives is that he hopes to use RPiTX and the wireless power plugs to create a smart coffee pot that will automatically turn on at 7 am, and turn off at 9 am.

In the past we have created a similar tutorial here, but new updates to RPiTX now make this process much easier and more reliable and ModernHam's video shows the new procedure. The new process is simply to look up the FCC frequency of the remote control transmitter, record an IQ file of the transmissions for the ON and OFF buttons, and then use the RPiTX sendiq command to replay the signal. You can then use simple Linux shell scripts to create automation.

Replay Attack with Remote Plugs for Home Automation with the Raspberry PI

Using an RTL-SDR and RPiTX to Unlock a Car with a Replay Attack

Over on YouTube user ModernHam has uploaded a video showing how to perform a replay attack on a car key fob using a Raspberry Pi running RPiTX and an RTL-SDR. A replay attack consists of recording an RF signal, and then simply replaying it again with a transmit capable radio. RPiTX is a program that can turn a Raspberry Pi into a general purpose RF transmitter without the need for any additional hardware.

The process is to record a raw IQ file with the RTL-SDR, and then use RPiTX V2's "sendiq" command to transmit the exact same signal again whenever you want. With this set up he's able to unlock his 2006 Toyota Camry at will with RPiTX.

We note that this sort of simple replay attack will only work on older model cars that do not use rolling code security. Rolling code security works by ensuring that an unlock transmission can only be utilized once, rendering replays ineffective. However, modern rolling code security systems are still susceptible to 'rolljam' style attacks.

In the video below ModernHam goes through the process from the beginning, showing how to install the RTL-SDR drivers and RPiTX. Near the end of the video he shows the replay attack in action.

Unlock Cars with a Raspberry Pi And SDR - Replay attack