Tagged: rtl-sdr

iqToSharp: Convert rtl_sdr IQ files to SDR# Format

Thanks to Marcin Jakubowski for submitting news about his new software tool called iqToSharp which is a simple tool that allows you to convert rtl_sdr IQ files into the SDR# IQ format. The rtl_sdr command line tool records raw IQ files but by default they are not compatible with the format used by SDR# so a conversion is required.

This is useful as for example you could set a command line script to record an entire band for a few hours on a portable Linux device like a Raspberry Pi, and then use the converter to listen to the file on SDRSharp at a later time. Recording the raw IQ file allows you to record all signals within the entire bandwidth at full quality.

Note that IQ files can become very large so for archiving compressing them with FLAC can be useful. You might also be interested in the SDR# FilePlayer plugin which allows you to easily skip back and forth in time through a recorded IQ file.

LocalRadio: A new RTL-SDR App for MacOS

Thanks to Doug Ward (@dsward) for letting us know about his new RTL-SDR compatible MacOS based app called LocalRadio. LocalRadio is an open source web browser based app that connects to a MacOS server running an RTL-SDR. The software allows you to listen in on any frequency supported by the RTL-SDR in AM or FM modes, and audio is capable of being streamed to multiple devices via a built the LAME MP3 encoder, EZStream and Icecast server. It does not provide an FFT or waterfall display however.

The software introduction reads:

LocalRadio is an experimental, GPL-2 licensed open-source application for listening to “software defined radio” on your Mac and mobile devices. With an inexpensive RTL-SDR device plugged into the Mac’s USB port, LocalRadio provides a casual listening experience for your favorite local FM broadcasts, free music, news, sports, weather, public safety and aviation scanner monitoring, and other radio sources.

LocalRadio’s easy-to-use web interface allows the radio to be shared from a Mac to iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and other PCs on your home network. No additional software or hardware is required for sharing with mobile devices, simply use the built-in mobile web browser to connect to LocalRadio and tune to your favorite stations. You can also listen to LocalRadio audio on your Apple TV and other AirPlay-compatible devices.

LocalRadio does not provide features like FFT waterfalls, panadapters, or signal recording that are found on other SDR software. For those features, GQRX for Mac is highly recommended. GQRX is a good way to discover radio frequencies that can be used with LocalRadio.

LocalRadio is intended for use as in-home entertainment, using a local area network with a private IP address. It has not been tested with a public IP address, particularly for security testing, therefore it is not recommended for that purpose. For simply listening to LocalRadio on the Mac with the RTL-SDR device plugged in, no network is required at all.

LocalRadio Interface in the Safari Web Browser
LocalRadio Interface in the Safari Web Browser

Decoding Amateur Radio Digital Voice with an RTL-SDR and the QRadioLink Android App

Thank you to Adrian for submitting his video about using the Android App called QRadioLink and an RTL-SDR to decode digital amateur radio voice transmissions. Adrian writes that in the video the RTL-SDR connects to the Android phone with a USB OTG cable and uses a sample rate of 1 MSPS. He also writes the following about QRadioLink:

QRadioLink is a building platform which allows experimenting with VHF-UHF SDR transceivers using different modulation schemes for digital data transmissions. So far digital voice and text transmission is supported, using either a narrow band modem and Codec2 or a high bandwidth modem and Opus. Supported hardware includes the RTL-SDR, Ettus USRP, HackRF, BladeRF and in general all devices supported by libgnuradio-osmosdr.

Using the SDRuno EXTIO Edition with an RTL-SDR and other SDRs

Over on YouTube Mike from the SDRplay team has created a tutorial video that shows how to use the SDRuno EXTIO edition. SDRuno is the official software of the SDRplay line of products and can be freely downloaded from the SDRplay website. The EXTIO edition allows other non-SDRplay SDR units to freely be used with SDRuno. The only restrictions are that the maximum bandwidth is artificially restricted to 2.5 MHz and some DSP filters are missing.

In the video Mike shows how to set up the SDRuno workspace to work with an RTL-SDR dongle and demos reception of some signals. Note that the EXTIO dll file for the RTL-SDR mentioned in the video is the same one required for HDSDR, and can be downloaded from the dll table on the HDSDR website.

If you’re interested in more, Mike has a full SDRuno tutorial series available on the SDRplay YouTube channel which mostly focuses on usage with the SDRplay units, but could be applicable to the EXTIO version as well.

Online 101 Course on RTL-SDR, DSP and MATLAB Starting Soon

Thanks to Juan Moreno for letting us know that his online MOOC (massive open online course) on RTL-SDR is starting on September 25. The course is presented by Juan and three of his colleagues from the Technical University of Madrid. It will focus on SDR 101 knowledge such as digital signal processing with the aide of an RTL-SDR to help with practical learning. In their video they also mention that MATLAB and Simulink will be required and used for most of the course, so it will probably be a fairly technical beginners course at a University level of learning. Their description of the course reads:

SDR is a reality around us. It is present in a lot of systems everywhere and is a versatile technology which can be used for many things (not only academics and industrial). The purpose of this course is to introduce students into general-purpose SDR tools. The SDR hardware platform chosen for this course is the RTL-SDR. It is worldwide available, it’s cheap ($15) and there is a lot of help in the Internet. But, as far as we know, there is no other MOOC focused on an introduction to SDR as this MOOC. Here we will not only learn about SDR but also a lot of related areas like antennas, digital signal processing, radio frequency and communication electronics.

The website and registration forms seem to all be in Spanish or Portuguese, but the course will be presented in entirely in English. Google Translate can easily be used to help with the signup process. The course is completely free and students that complete 75% of assignments will receive a free participation certificate. A more official accomplishment certificate can be obtained for a 50 Euros.

A Solar Powered Raspberry Pi + RTL-SDR NOAA Weather Satellite Receiver

Over on YouTube user Fuzz has uploaded a video showing his solar powered NOAA weather satellite receiver.

The system is based on a Raspberry Pi connected to an RTL-SDR.com dongle. The front-end input of the RTL-SDR dongle consists of an LNA and FM reject filter, and this is all connected up to a QFH antenna in his front yard. The electronics are completely solar powered, with the solar system consisting of solar panel, solar controller and four 12v batteries used for energy storage. A 12V to 5V step down converter is used to power the Raspberry Pi, with the 12V LNA being powered directly by the batteries. The system is able to be accessed remotely via the Raspberry Pi’s WiFi connection.

Over on his Facebook page Fuzz has uploaded some additional photos, and some of the images he’s receiving.

Fuzz's solar powered NOAA weather satellite receiver.
Fuzz’s solar powered NOAA weather satellite receiver.

Salamandra: A modern study of microphone bugs operation and detection with an RTL-SDR

A couple of weeks ago we posted about Salamandra, an RTL-SDR compatible piece of software which can be used to help detect and locate microphone bugs that are used for spying. Recently we discovered that the two authors of Salamandra, Veronic Valeros and Sebastian Garcia both from the MatesLab Hackerspace in Buenos Aires, Argentina have written a paper on their experiences with microphone bugs, and about the development of Salamandra. The abstract reads:

In 2015, artist Ai Weiwei was bugged in his home, presumably by government actors. This situation raised our awareness on the lack of research in our community about operating and detecting spying microphones. Our biggest concern was that most of the knowledge came from fictional movies. Therefore, we performed a deep study on the state-of-the-art of microphone bugs, their characteristics, features and pitfalls. It included real life experiments trying to bug ourselves and trying to detect the hidden mics. Given the lack of open detection tools, we developed a free software SDR-based program, called Salamandra, to detect an locate hidden microphones in a room. After more than 120 experiments we concluded that placing mics correctly and listening is not an easy task, but it has a huge payoff when it works. Also, most mics can be detected easily with the correct tools (with some exceptions on GSM mics). In our experiments the average time to locate the mics in a room was 15 minutes. Locating mics is the novel feature of Salamandra, which is released to the public with this work. We hope that our study raises awareness on the possibility of being bugged by a powerful actor and the countermeasure tools available for our protection.

The paper first outlines the history of microphone bugs and tries to dispel some of the myths about them which originate from movies and other fictional sources. They then perform a survery of the current state-of-the-art microphone bugging techniques, and later go on to discuss the development of Salamandra and some experiments that they performed with it.

In their experiments they show that the Salamandra software and RTL-SDR is able to outperform a commercial bug detector. They also performed several real world simulations where one researcher would hide a bug in a room, and then another would have to use Salamandra to determine if a bug was present, and then locate it using the location feature of Salamandra. They concluded that Salamandra was a very useful tool as they were able to detect the location of the bugs in under 40 minutes in 4/5 tests.

An example waterfall of a microphone bug transmitting and being received with an RTL-SDR
An example waterfall of a microphone bug transmitting and being received with an RTL-SDR
Location of a hidden bug in one of their tests.
Location of a hidden bug in one of their tests.

Outernet SDRx Clearance Sale $15: RTL-SDR with built in L-band LNA and Filter

Recently the Outernet project transitioned from using RTL-SDR dongles and C.H.I.P single board computers to using their Dreamcatcher board, which is an RTL-SDR and computing board all in one. In between the transition they also produced a number of ‘SDRx’ dongles. These were custom RTL-SDR dongles with a built in L-band LNA and filter. As they no longer need the SDRx they have them on clearance at their store.

The clearance price is $15 USD which is an excellent deal. Remember though, that the SDRx is limited in frequency range – it is designed for receiving L-band satellites between 1525 – 1559 MHz and the filter will cut off all other frequencies.

The Outernet SDRx on Clearance
The Outernet SDRx on Clearance

Just add a simple L-band tuned antenna to the port and you should be able to receive Inmarsat and a signal like STD-C, AERO or the Outernet signal. A suitable antenna might be a homebrew patch, helix, cooking pot antenna or even a small tuned V-dipole antenna can work for the stronger AERO signals.

We also see that the price of their L-band Outernet active ceramic patch antenna has been dropped down slightly to $25 USD. This antenna is bias tee powered and can be used with a V3 dongle or their Dreamcatcher hardware. The Dreamcatcher itself is also now reduced in price to $59 USD.

We have a review of the Dreamcatcher and active ceramic patch antenna available here.

Outernet Dreamcatcher and L-Band Active Ceramic Patch
Outernet Dreamcatcher and L-Band Active Ceramic Patch

We also now list Outernet products in our store. These are commission sales so we receive a little bit per purchase which supports the blog, and the items are shipped by Outernet within the USA.

If you were unaware, Outernet is a free L-band based satellite service that provides content such as news, weather data, APRS repeats and more. Currently you can get about 20MB of data a day. Outernet receivers are also all based around the RTL-SDR, allowing for very cheap receivers to be built