Tagged: scanner

Recent Podcasts on Software Defined Radio from Scanner School

Scanner School is an online resource that aims to teach subscribers all about radio scanning. They also run a weekly podcast discussing various topics in the scanning hobby. Recently they've had a bit of a focus on software defined radios, with several of the last podcasts being SDR related.

Episode 170 - SDRplay with Jon Hudson

On today’s episode, host Phil Lichtenberger interviews Jon Hudson, the co-creator of the SDRplay devices. They talk about the evolution of radio scanning software, the advantages of SDRplay and SDRuno, where they think the scanner hobby is headed, and more.

What You Need To Know

Jon Hudson is a co-creator of the SDRplay device. SDRplay manufactures both hardware and software. Before about 20 years ago, processing the radio chain was done exclusively on the hardware. Now computers are powerful enough to support doing most of this work with software. SDRplay was founded in 2014. The RSPDX has multiple antennae, which allows users to switch from one antenna to another quickly and easily. Because SDRplay makes their own software for Windows, they take a lot of time to make sure it works seamlessly out of the box. SDRplay acquired a company called Studio One that manufactured software about five years ago. SDRplay is releasing a scheduler, which will function as an audio recorder for a specific channel at a specific time. An advantage of the scheduler is that it allows users to tune in to certain frequencies at a specified time and then turn it off or move on to something else. All session notes with links to the items we talked about can be found on our website at www.scannerschool.com/session170

170 - SDRplay with Jon Hudson

Episode 169 - SDR++ with Alex Rouma

A cross platform, open source, free SDR software!

In this episode, Phil talks to Alex Rouma, author and creator of SDR++. They discuss how Alex got into SDRs, where SDR++ is now and where he hopes it can go, and how you can contribute to this open source software’s development, whether you’re a programmer or not.

What You Need To Know

SDR++ is free, open-source, cross-platform software for your SDR. Alex got into SDRs after watching a video of someone receiving weather satellites, piquing his interest in radio in general. Alex is currently building SDR++ as general purpose SDR receiver software with more modern functionality like multi-VFO and multi-platform support. SDR++ supports anything Alex has or that companies have sent him, including SDR Play, HackRF, RTLTCP, and more. Alex considers the software still in beta, but thinks he’ll have stable code with the features he wants within 3-4 months. He wants to add audio filtering features and more options for the file source. SDR++ is fully modular so you can add plugins as you need them. Alex aims to make the software as automatic as possible. All session notes with links to the items we talked about can be found on our website at www.scannerschool.com/session169

169 - SDR++ with Alex Rouma

Episode 168 - Using a SDR as Your Scanner

In this episode, Phil talks to listener Greg Weamer about his SDR setup. They get into the history of SDR development, what you can do with an SDR that you can’t do with a hardware-based scanner, and where they think the future of SDRs is heading.

What You Need To Know

Today, Greg does not have a hardware scanner at all, but only a SDR. His area has simulcast problems that the SDR solves. Greg currently uses about 8 RTL-SDR dongles, including 3 on a Raspberry Pi, some on another Raspberry Pi, an old laptop, and more. Greg also uses Trunk Recorder, which is one of the most difficult things he’s ever configured, but he loves that it monitors every voice channel at the same time. RDIO Scanner is a web interface that takes the feeds from the virtual recorders Greg has going and cues up calls on every voice channel so you don’t miss anything. Because it’s a web interface, he can bring it up on his phone or tablet from anywhere. Greg thinks the next major SDR development will eliminate the need for any fully hardware based radios entirely. An SDR can do things that not a single hardware-based scanner out there is capable of. Greg has used his SDR to tune into his utilities smart meters for his water and gas to track his usage. One of Greg’s favorite things about SDR is that you can see the signals and whether they’re strong or not, whether they’re digital or analog, etc. The ability to visualize the signal lets you find a lot more new stuff to listen to. The flexibility of an SDR and ability to do so many things at once with it means you get the equivalent of several premium subscriptions to other services. All session notes with links to the items we talked about an be found on our website at www.scannerschool.com/session168

168 - Using a SDR as Your Scanner

Episode 165 - This is Why You Need an SDR

In this episode, Phil walks through the basics of what an SDR is, its history, and how you can get set up with one. The perfect introduction to his upcoming SDR webinar and course.

What you will take away from this week's podcast:

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. All session notes with links to the items we talked about an be found on our website at www.scannerschool.com/session165

165 - This is Why You Need an SDR

Episode 164 - Raspberry PI and SDR w/ Fuzz the Pi Guy

In this episode, Phil talks to "Fuzz the Pi Guy".

Fuzz has a large YouTube channel and has a ton of SDR and Raspberry Pi Videos.

Fuzz and I discuss how he uses his Software Defined Radios and how he keeps costs down by using a Raspberry Pi as as his computer for many of these projects.

What you will take away from this week's podcast:

SDR stands for Software Defined Radio, where you plug your hardware into power on one end and your computer on the other end so the computer software can interpret the signal. The Raspberry Pi is essentially a low-cost computer to help teach computer science in schools, and is now used for things like hosting Minecraft servers, learning Linux, and running SDR programs. Fuzz has a YouTube channel where he primarily demonstrates Raspberry Pi projects and tips, as well as a wide variety of small electronics content. He’s using a new setup that involves a Raspberry Pi 3 with an RTL-SDR dongle, connected to a 2m 70cm homemade antenna to receive his local Phase 2 frequencies, uploaded to Broadcastify using the new free software OP25. Using this setup, Fuzz essentially created a Phase 2 scanner for under $100. The FlightAware website gives a good introduction to using the Raspberry Pi with an SDR that can get you set up in under 15 minutes. The Raspberry Pi has the best support system out there for any Pi hardware, but Fuzz has been working with the Atomic Pi lately. This setup provides an inexpensive alternative to buying a pricey scanner if you don’t mind troubleshooting and problem solving to get going. All session notes with links to the items we talked about an be found on our website at www.scannerschool.com/session164

164 - Raspberry PI and SDR w/ Fuzz the Pi Guy

Frugal Radio: Using an Airspy and RTL-SDR To Scan the UHF Military Airband in SDR#

In Frugal Radio's latest video he explores how you can use an Airspy or RTL-SDR dongle to scan the entire military UHF airband spectrum in a few seconds via SDR#. Frugal Radio notes that there are often many signals in the UHF milair band, but they can be difficult to find without a scanner.

In the first video he compares his Uniden BCT15X hardware radio scanner against an Airpsy, noting that his Uniden takes 1:10 minutes to scan the entire band, whereas the Airspy running SDR# with the frequency scanner community plugin can scan the same bandwidth in less than 2.5 seconds. Faster scanning means that you are less likely to miss an active signal. In the second video he tries scanning with an RTL-SDR and notes that it can scan the band in 9 seconds.

How to use Frequency Scanner to Search UHF MilAir in 2.3 seconds in SDR# using AirSpy R2

$25 RTL-SDR v3 Military Air band search in under 10 seconds! Frequency Scanner SDR Sharp plugin test

RadioCapture – Software to Capture, Archive and Listen to Trunked Radio From Many Sources Now Open Sourced

Back in April 2019 we posted about Matt Mills' Radiocapture.com website which is a web service that you can feed that automatically captures analogue and digital trunked radio conversations with an RTL-SDR, and allows public users to play back conversations via the web interface. The Radiocapture page which shows what the software is capable of is also active at radiocapture.com/radio

Back in April Matt was fundraising via Patreon and hoping to make development of Radiocapture his day job, but unfortunately he's had to call it quits for now. Since he no longer has time to work on it, Matt has open sourced the RF side of the software. The software description reads:

[Radiocapture-rf] is capable of using multiple networked computers and multiple SDR radios to demodulate the control channel of P25, EDACS, and Motorola trunking systems, as well as some limited support (alpha quality) for scanning for systems, LTR trunking, and "police scanner" style audio capture.

It is designed to effectively scale to an infinite capacity of trunked systems, captured transmission volume, and dongle bandwidth (more dongles = more available bandwidth, more cpus = more channels and more systems). (There is one remaining feature to be implemented to really make this work well, dongle redis autodiscovery (frontend_connect should autodiscover and use available dongles) and splitting the rc_frontend/receiver.py into one process per dongle.

The frontend initializes the SDRs in whatever configured frequency range, and presents a server interface where clients can connect and request a specific channel be created and forward to them. The frontend will then attach a channel, and output to a UDP sink (might be something better now, I forget). On the backend side, a control_demodulator is listening to that sink and doing the actual RF demodulation, which is passed into redis for distribution to other services. The backend is effectively a bunch of microservices that work together to track & record all ongoing transmissions and do some amount of deduplication. This entire setup is designed such that it can be scaled across as many servers/computers as necessary (although there are a few caveats/things I never got around to implementing in how it actually works). Recorded transmissions are decorated with a metadata scheme in their mp3 tags that is designed to be able to be loaded into the Radiocapture.com database. Finally completed mp3s are dropped into an activemq queue for publishing.

Matt notes that the software in it's current state isn't considered as "ready to distribute" as you may need some decent experience with Linux and Python to get it up and running.

RadioCapture logged audio
RadioCapture logged audio

Help Support RadioCapture – A Project that Records Entire Trunked Radio Systems and Provides Online Access to Audio

RadioCapture.com is a website run by Matt Mills that is capable of automatically capturing trunked radio communications from various agencies such as the emergency services and creating publicly accessible historical and live logs of the audio. This is a concept different to radio scanner streams, as all audio is logged and historical audio can be accessed easily at any time.

The system is based on SDR hardware such as the RTL-SDR. Currently Matt runs a receiver in Denver and captures Denver PD which can be listened to on the site without needing to log in. Once logged in (registration is free), other talkgroups available include various agencies in Colorado, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

RadioCapture.com currently available Talkgroups being logged
RadioCapture.com: Currently available talkgroups being logged

Recently Matt has put a call out for people to help support the site via Patreon. He notes that RadioCapture is currently run as a hobby, but with monetary support he hopes to be able to expand the site into a business and have receivers listening and uploading worldwide. He writes:

Hey! Thanks for supporting the continued operation and development of Radiocapture.com. This is a hobby project I've been working on this since late 2011. I'd like to turn it into a real business with your help.

Radiocapture.com is a software defined radio system I built that captures entire trunked radio systems. It demodulates and captures every call on every channel of one, or many systems.

A single RadioCapture server can capture hundreds of simultaneous voice transmissions and a bunch of sites, additionally it's designed in such a way that it can run across multiple computers. My biggest RF site uses 3 machines to capture 19 P25 systems, and easily hits more than 100 active voice channels recordings simultaneously every day.

Matt has also noted that if the site is able to become self-sustaining via Patreon, he hopes to also be able to bring out a RadioCapture kit consisting of 10-16 RTL-SDR dongles, hubs and cables which would allow anyone to easily capture and upload almost all trunked communications from their area. He also notes that at the time of writing:

RadioCapture has 701790271 unique recordings of 503779875 unique transmissions (some calls get captured on multiple transmitters) from the 21 systems that have been captured

If you're interested in talking to Matt about the site, you can also join his Rocket.Chat room at radiocapture.chat.

RadioCapture logged audio
RadioCapture playing logged audio

A Web and RTL-SDR Based Trunking Scanner

During the Cyberspectrum Wireless Village talks a few days ago Gavin Rozzi gave a talk about his online RTLSDR-based trunking scanner website at ocradio.live. Recently he wrote in and wanted to share a little more about his system. He writes:

[The talk focuses] on my experience implementing several open source software packages to create an online RTLSDR-based trunking scanner website, https://ocradio.live/ that serves the part of New Jersey that I live in. Using multiple RTLSDR receiving locations, the site is demodulating, recording, and timeshifting multiple talkgroups of local and state trunked radio systems to create a live streaming service and archive of past scanner calls. Data from the site is also accessible over a REST API and we allow the creation of custom scan lists. My presentation is going to center on the advantages the site has over traditional hardware scanners and some of the technical challenges that we had to overcome to get the project off the ground.

In the Cyberspectrum YouTube video, Gavin's talk starts at around 2:40:22 and his slides are available at https://cyberspectrum23.ocradio.live

OCRadio Streams Screenshot
OCRadio Streams Screenshot

Uniden Announce the SDS100: A Software Defined Handheld Scanner

The Uniden SDS100 Handheld SDR Based Scanner
The Uniden SDS100 Handheld SDR Based Scanner

Radio manufacturer Uniden have just released news about their latest product called the SDS100 which is a handheld software defined radio scanner specifically for digital voice and trunking modes. The scanner will retail for USD699, and aims to be released in the 2nd quarter of 2018 pending FCC approval. Note that certain software decoders will require paid upgrades, but it will be capable of all the major digital voice modes such as P25 Phase I and II, DMR, NXDN and trunking modes. It doesn't seem to support TETRA since it's marketed at the American consumer, however, it seems plausible that simple software update could enable this feature in the future.

As far as we know this is the first handheld scanner to incorporate SDR and is probably one of the bigger leaps in scanner technology to date. Compared to hardware based scanners, the SDS100 should provide significantly better decoding capabilities, even in weak signal and simulcast conditions. Simulcast is when multiple overlapping base stations transmit a signal at the same frequency. This can cause multi-path distortion problems, but an IQ based radio like an SDR is able to overcome these issues.

Uniden creates another first with the SDS100 True I/Q Scanner, the first scanner to incorporate Software Defined Radio technology to provide incredible digital performance in even the most challenging RF environments. The SDS100’s digital performance is better than any other scanner in both simulcast and weak-signal environments.

The SDS100 is also the first scanner that allows you to decide what to display, where, and in what color. Custom fields put the information important to you right where you need it.

And, one more first, the SDS100 meets JIS4 (IPX4) standards for water resistance.

For more information you can check out this discussion thread on Radio Reference. In the future there should also be some videos of it in action available on the Uniden YouTube channel. The owners manual is also available here and all their promo material including many more demonstration videos can be found on their Google Drive.


RTL-SDR Wide Spectrum Analyzer

Over on YouTube claudio giuliani has posted a video of his RTL-SDR Wide Spectrum Analyzer software. The software is written in the basic for gambas language and uses an RTL-SDR software defined radio to plot a wide chunk of the frequency spectrum by sweeping over it. It looks to be similar to the RTL-SDR Scanner software. Currently it is only available for Linux.

RTL-SDR Wide Scanner
RTL-SDR Wide Scanner
RTL_SDR Wide spectrum analyzer

RTL-SDR DSD Call Log Recorder

Programmer Tyler Watt has been working on software that automatically logs each call from an RTL-SDR running DSD (Digital Speech Decoder) and then stores it in a time stamped database as an mp3 file. There is also a web front end for the database which allows public users to search and play recorded calls.

Recently Tyler updated his code by rewriting it in PHP and making it multiplatform.

The old version of his web front end in action for his local P25 calls can be viewed here, and the newer one can be found here.