Tagged: rtl-sdr

Adding an RTL-SDR Antenna Port to a Pinetab Linux Tablet

The Pinetab is a US$99.99 open source Ubuntu Linux Tablet based on a low power Pine64 singe board computer. The Pinetab can optionally support an internal RTL-SDR, which is essentially just a standard RTL-SDR PCB connected to the single board computer inside the tablet enclosure.

Over on YouTube channel Privacy & Tech Tips has uploaded a video where he takes the Pinetab apart and adds an external antenna port, allowing for external antennas to be connected. In the video we get a good look at the internals of the Pinetab, and after installing the external antenna port he shows us the Pinetab receiving a LoRa signal.

Opening Pinetab (Linux Tablet) back cover (+show tips for safer opening) on video and show how you can add an external threaded antenna port for your internal SDR. It makes for an amazingly compact SDR kit and smaller antennas like LoRa fit right inside the keyboard/tablet/laptop stand. Larger antennas such as a dipole, the antenna cord fits along the case/stand perfectly.

I show how to open the Pinetab safely, and install an external threaded antenna port. After this I take a Heltec LoRa ESP32 I have had laying around and use it to demo GQRX on the screen. I show LoRa packets coming over the radio waves at 915MHz. Series on SDR using Pinetab/Pinephone/Pine64 hardware. Linux makes for an amazing platform where the tools at hand leave the limits to what you can do to the power of your imagination.

Howto: Open Pinetab Cover (Safely) + Adding SDR Antenna Port + LoRa Radio Tests (GQRX Linux)

Frugal Radio: Monitoring Aviation Communications Part One

Rob from Frugal Radio has recently started a new YouTube series all about monitoring aviation communications. In his first video Rob gives an overview on what can be aviation signals can monitored and recommends a few hardware scanners as well as software defined radios for monitoring.

This is an introductory video to my new series aimed about monitoring aviation communications. Throughout the series we will talk about:

  • Civil Airband (aka VHF airband)
  • Military Airband (aka UHF airband)
  • HF Aeronautical communications
  • Decoding aircraft data on HF and VHF
  • Decoding CPDLC transmissions and much more!
  • Good frequency scanners to use, like the Uniden BC125AT and BCT-15X
  • Recommended Software Defined Radios (SDR)

Monitoring Aviation Communications - Part 1

SDRSharp Guide by IZ1MLL Updated

Thank you to Paolo Romani IZ1MLL for letting us know that he has updated his popular SDRSharp users guide that we posted about previously last December. The guide is available on the Airspy downloads page. SDR# (aka SDRSharp) from Airpsy.com is designed for Airspy SDRs, however it is one of the most popular SDR receiver programs that is used with RTL-SDRs as well. Paolo's guide covers all of the settings and features in SDR# as well as some third party plugins. Paolo writes:

In the last month I have completely rewritten the guide for other devices and for the latest radical changes to the software. From today, version 2.1 is available in Italian and English for all interested guys.

We note that the guide has also been translated in Spanish and Russian, although at the time of writing those translations are still only for the older guide. 

SDRSharp Guide

Engineer and Beauty Queen Xyla Foxlin sends an RTL-SDR and Miss America Crown to Space in a High Altitude Balloon

Xyla Foxlin is a Mechatronics engineer, entrepreneur, and beauty queen who amongst many other titles is also a STEM YouTuber. In her latest YouTube video Xyla sends her Miss America crown that she received as winner of Miss Greater Cleveland 2018 to space on a high altitude balloon.

In the video she explains her beauty queen journey, shows the balloon prep, launch and recovery and well as the video of the crown ascending into space via an onboard camera. Whilst not specifically mentioned in the video, in the description of her video she also notes that the scientific payload of the balloon was an RTL-SDR.

The scientific payload was an RTL SDR radio receiver recording spectrum data from FM broadcast stations as it ascended. This was a collaboration with my friend (and PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering) Kristina Collins, with the goal of submitting a paper to HamSCI eventually. (Collaboration means she did most of the payload and I did most of the get-it-to-the-stratosphere part)

We were able to track the payload in real time all the way to 112,00 feet because we flew an APRS transmitter using my Amateur Radio Callsign. This let anyone following me watch it in real time as well, it even flew over one of my fan's houses! If you plan on launching a weather balloon, I HIGHLY recommend getting your HAM license so you can fly with APRS.

I Lost my Miss America Crown in SPACE

TechMinds: Testing a DC-160 MHz Panadapter Switch

Over on his YouTube channel Tech Minds has uploaded a video where he tests out a cheap US$90 automatic antenna switch with DC-160 MHz range that he purchased from Chinese goods retailer Banggood. An automatic antenna switch like this is required when wanting to use an SDR such as an RTL-SDR as a panadapter with a transmit capable radio. The switch will automatically switch the SDR to ground when transmitting, so that high power does not enter the SDR via the shared antenna and destroy it.

In the video Tech Minds shows how to set the switch connections up and then demonstrates the switch in action with a Yaesu FT-991A and SDRplay SDR. He notes that this cheap Chinese version is actually built better than the MFJ-1708 antenna switch which until recently was the only commercial option available. It is also half the price.

PANADAPTER For Any Radio DC - 160 MHz SDR Antenna Switch

Evaluating LoRaWAN Security with an RTL-SDR

Over on their blog Trend Micro have uploaded a post describing how they evaluated the security of LoRaWAN communications using an RTL-SDR. LoRaWAN is a wireless communications technology that allows for Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity at a much lower cost compared to cellular infrastructure. However, as described in their post LoRaWAN incorporates very little security, making connected devices an easy target for hackers.

The researchers at Trend Micro used an RTL-SDR together with the LoRaPWN software tool which is an improved version of the LoRa Craft Project. With LoRaPWN the researchers were able to intercept uplink and downlink packets. Then when combined with a brute force dictionary attack, they were then able to recover the encryption keys allowing them to decode the data.  Finally they were also able to demonstrate a denial of service attack which results in a device being unable to send further data.

For more information the technical paper (pdf) describing their full setup and tests is available, as well as an older post describing possible LoRaWAN attacks. There is also a YouTube video from "The Things Conference" which we have embedded below. In the video researcher Sebastian Dudek presents some of his findings on LoRaWAN security.

An RTL-SDR Blog V3 Intercepting LoRaWAN packets.

LoRaPWNing: Practical radio attacks on LoRaWAN - Sebastian Dudek (Trend Micro)

Scanner School Podcast + Webinar: This is Why You Need an SDR

Scanner School is an online site providing tutorials, podcasts and reviews all about the radio scanning hobby. They are currently planning a Webinar for February 23, 2021 titled "Why Every Scanner User Needs an SDR: The #1 Underrated Tool that should be in your setup". You can sign up to the webinar here. In addition to the upcoming webinar they have also already released episode 165 of their podcast titled "This is Why You Need an SDR". The topics covered in the podcast are listed below.

  • An SDR means that anything normally handled by the hardware of the radio is now handled by the computer, and the physical hardware serves as an interface.
  • The only limitation on the SDR hardware you buy is the frequency range and the amount of RF it can digest.
  • SDR receivers have come a long way since they were first hacked into existence.
  • SDRs used to be difficult to set up, but that’s no longer true.
  • You don’t need advanced computer skills to run SDR software.
  • SDR software can run on PC, Linux, Mac, Raspberry PI, and even Android.
  • An SDR is more flexible and less expensive than a traditional radio.
  • You can turn a $30 USB stick into something as powerful as an SDS200 in an afternoon.
  • All you need to get started is an SDR USB stick, a computer, and the free starter software SDR Sharp.
  • Once you get set up with FM broadcast stations, aviation, and other analog systems, Phil’s SDR course will go into how to set up digital reception.
  • If you download DSD+ Fast Lane or Unitrunker you can monitor trunking systems.

Analyzing Frozen Air Traffic in the Hudson Valley

Thank you to Steve Bossert (K2GOG) for submitting his article on analyzing traffic from his RTL-SDR based ADS-B receiver during the recent heavy snow storms at his location in the Hudson Valley. His graphs show a huge drop off in air traffic and ADS-B packets received during the storms.

Aside from these results, Steve's post goes on to explain how he gathers and stores these analytics and an example of using the Graphs1090 software for producing nice plots of the aircraft receive. One important tip that he mentions is to be careful when constantly logging ADS-B data to the SD card as the card can easily get corrupted over time since there are read/write cycle limits.

Air traffic graphs showing the effect of the latest snow storm on air traffic