Back in September we posted a tutorial that showed how to set up an Outernet receiver with a Raspberry Pi running their rxOS software and an RTL-SDR, LNA and patch antenna. Recently, Outernet have released a new decoder for Windows and Linux which is very easy to install and run. Outernet is an L-band satellite data service which can be received almost anywhere in the world with an RTL-SDR. They aim to be a “library in the sky”, constantly broadcasting public data like news, books, images/videos and other data files.
The new decoder is a Linux machine that runs in a self contained multiplatform Virtual Box virtual machine. This means that it is a standalone package, and it comes included with the OS, decoder, and all the files needed to make it run. Using a virtual machine eliminates any installation issues due to missing dependencies or libraries. Running the VM in Windows is as easy as double clicking on a .exe file to open it up. Note that you’ll need a relatively modern machine that supports hardware virtualization support (VT-x) (Core 2 or newer). The virtual machine itself is lightweight, and uses less than 50MB of RAM, and has very low CPU usage.
At the moment, the decoder writes files downloaded from the Outernet service to a directory stored in C:\Outernet\downloads. Unlike the Raspberry Pi decoder, there is no web interface for accessing the content, though this will probably be added in future builds. The files can be directly accessed in the Windows/Linux file managers.
To set up the VM on a Windows machine:
- Download the Windows .exe archive and open it. When prompted, extract the files to a convenient folder on your PC.
- Plug in your RTL-SDR and LNA, and set up your L-band antenna.
- In the extracted folder run the outernet.exe file once. This will open the decoder and the first time it is run it will automatically create a folder in C:\Outernet.
- If you are in the Europe/Africa and use the Alphasat satellite then you can ignore this step. If you are in another region, close the opened VM, then go to C:\Outernet\Satellites.Available, and then copy the file corresponding to the satellite used in your part of the world over to C:\Outernet\Satellites.Selected. Now reopen the outernet.exe VM.
- The decoder should now be showing a good SNR value >2 in the top right information, and the State: should show FRAME LK. The bottom right window should also scroll “Packed written to socket.”
- After a few minutes check the C:\Outernet\cache folder for pieces of files. Later check the C:\Outernet\downloads folder for completed files.
Further instructions can be found on their Windows Readme file. Note that as there is no web browser for the files, some will be downloaded as GZipped files, and will need to be unzipped to be viewed. For more information on the Outernet service as well as the hardware requirements see our previous tutorial.
We tested out the VM on a Windows laptop for a few hours and was able to receive several GZipped Wikipedia webpages as well as a photo, as shown in the screenshot below.