HamSCI is an organization dedicated citizen radio science and specifically the "publicity and promotion of projects that advance scientific research and understanding through amateur radio activities". Recently they held their HamSCI 2020 workshop online, and the videos are now available on the Ham Radio 2.0 YouTube channel. Several of the projects mentioned in the talks involve the use of software defined radios.
Come join HamSCI at its third annual workshop! Due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 Coronavirus, this year's workshop will he held as a virtual, eletronic workshop. The meeting will take place March 20-21, 2020 using Zoom Webinar Services hosted by The University of Scranton in Scranton, PA . The primary objective of the HamSCI workshop is to bring together the amateur radio community and professional scientists. The theme of the 2020 HamSCI Workshop is "The Auroral Connection: How does the aurora affect amateur radio, and what can we learn about the aurora from radio techniques?" Invited speakers include Dr. Elizabeth MacDonald, NASA Scientist and founder of Aurorasaurus, Dr. James LaBelle, Dartmouth Space Scientist and expert on radio aurora, and Dave Hallidy K2DH, an expert in ham radio auroral communication.
One talk discusses the HamSCI personal weather station project, which is an SDR and Raspberry Pi based solution that monitors HF signals like WSPR, as well as characterizing HF noise, detecting lightning and ionospheric disturbances.
HamSCI 2020 Overview of the Personal Space Weather Station and Project Update
Another talk discusses the TangerineSDR, which is an open source SDR currently in development by TAPR. The goal of the TangerineSDR is to be a sub $500 SDR with a focus on space science, academic research as well as general amateur use.
HamSCI 2020 TangerineSDR Data Engine and Overall Architecture
Radenso is a company that sells radar detectors. These are used to help motorists avoid speeding fines from Police using radar speed detectors in their cruisers. Their latest upcoming product is called the "Radenso Theia" and is a software defined radio based solution.
In one of their latest YouTube videos they explain how SDR is used in the Theia, noting that the SDR ADC chip they are using is an AD9248. The use of an SDR allows them to more easily apply advanced digital signal processing algorithms to the radar detection task. In particular they note that they can now apply deep learning artificial intelligence filtering which helps to classify different radar gun FFT signatures and avoid false positives from other radar sources such as automatic doors.
While the Theia is designed to be a radar detector, they note that the device could also be used by hardware hackers as a standalone software defined radio. They have thought about this use case and have added a separate uFL connector that can be enabled by soldering a zero ohm connector, and this allows users to connect any antenna to it.
What is a software defined radio and why does it matter for Radenso Theia?
In the past we've seen several SDR# plugins released by Eddie MacDonald, and now thanks to recent updates to the core of SDR#, he's been able to work on and release a new accessibility plugin for SDR#. Eddie writes -
I have created a new plugin which provides keyboard shortcuts, an on screen display and a new improved toolbar for the new native toolbar area that Prog has provided to plugin developers.
There are many new and improved toolbar buttons available.
Many, many keyboard shortcuts including the ability to directly enter the frequency easily from the keyboard.
I am currently working on incorporating a screen reader into the plugin to aid the blind in using SDR#.
We are pleased to announce the release of SDR# r1717 with the Telerik User Interface.
This is quite a big jump from the old UI components that will allow us to add many fancy features in the upcoming revisions. For now, the functionality of the software was ported "one to one" with full support of the existing plugins. A new Plugin API for the tool bar was added which allows plugin developers to add/remove special buttons for quick access.
Despite a slightly longer loading time at the startup of the application, many performance improvements should be noticed in run time, especially the CPU usage. The package is now distributed with a set of skins/themes you can select in the control panel under "Display". Later on, we will add custom skins loading capability so you can customize the look and feel of the whole program.
Please note that some themes have slower rendering than others. You will have to experiment until you settle with something that is acceptable for the eye candy and the CPU usage / UI reactivity.
Some older plugins may not support the "Dark" themes and will have some rendering problems. The last unskinned version of SDR# will be still available for download in case you really need it. In any case, plugin developers are invited to support the new skins by either using Telerik UI components or at least setting the display properties of the old components so they render properly.
In addition to the plugins it also automatically installs the RTL-SDR drivers, and the RTL-SDR (R820T) special interface which has the ability to use decimation and has individual controls for each of the three gain stages. You can also use it to automatically install the LimeSDR and PlutoSDR interfaces.
The .exe is a simple installer and you can select what plugins you want during the install. The installer automatically puts the SDRSharp folder in the C: drive.
Over on YouTube Andreas Spiess has uploaded a video titled "How does Software Defined Radio (SDR) work under the Hood?". The video is an entertaining introduction to how software defined radio works and begins from the beginning by explaining how basic analogue radios work with components such as modulators, demodulators, frequency generators, mixers and filters. After the basics he goes on to explain the digitization of radio signals that occurs in SDRs, and gives an introduction ADCs and how IQ sampling works.
Later in the video Andreas shows various applications for SDRs, discusses various SDRs on the market like RTL-SDR, HackRF, SDRplay, LimeSDR and PlutoSDR and introduces GNU Radio Companion and other SDR programs from our big list of software post.
How does Software Defined Radio (SDR) work under the Hood?
Oona (also known as [Windytan] and @windyoona) was recently looking for a way to capture PAL composite video from her old 1980’s Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) without spending a bunch of money on what are often poor video capture cards. As she already owned an Airspy SDR she decided to receive the PAL signal with the Airspy and modify some software to act as a PAL decoder.
SDR-based PAL decoder is still black & white, but after a notch filter on the audio the picture quality is getting a lot better. pic.twitter.com/SUoBlnBZF3
PAL decoding was handled via some modifications to her private Tempest software. Normally Tempest type programs like TempestSDR that we covered in a [previous article] are used to spy on computer/TV monitors from signals that are unintentionally emitted in the surrounding area.
Oona has made the connection from the composite output directly to the SDR antenna input so it’s not unexpected that you’d have a strong signal. However, I have to admit that’s an incredibly clear image for a video being demodulated via a software radio.
What makes this an even more amazing feat is that the latency is low enough that it’s nearly playable using a computer and SDR in place of a television set.
I’ve been looking for ways to capture NES video on my Mac. No easy+cheap solutions, but with some changes to my Tempest tool I can use the Airspy to receive the analog video carrier. The latency is almost good enough for playing, though it’s not my goal 🙂 pic.twitter.com/B6x44NEuvK
Why use this app? It makes it easy to slog through lots of recording files, looking for interesting signals. Load a file, and a waterfall for the entire file is created. You can scroll around, and if you see anything that looks interesting, you can drag select it, and then demodulate it. You can even save the demodulated audio as a WAVE file, that you can listen to later, send to someone else, or play into your digital decoding software, if it is an RTTY, SSTV, etc. transmission.
Support for other SDR recording file formats is possible, you'll need to work with me by providing sample files and details on the format. This program is presently for macOS only. Support for Windows may happen... stay tuned!