Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

A $20 Software Defined Radio For GNU Radio

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the fcc-commissioner-brunt-makes-surprise-appearance dept.

Communications 53

An anonymous reader writes "Dr. Dobb's shows how to take a $20 USB TV dongle and use it as a wide-range software defined radio using GNU Radio." See also the OscomSDR project, and SDR#, an MIT licensed program for debugging software defined radios.

cancel ×

53 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Going up... (4, Insightful)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 2 years ago | (#41386279)

Wow, inflation is really hitting these things...

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/12/03/31/1914217/software-defined-radio-for-11 [slashdot.org]

Re:Going up... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41386469)

These super-cheap little dongles are *terrible* performers. They suffer from de-sense when nearby strong stations transmit, tend to have I/Q balance problems, and so on.

You want good performance from an SDR, you're not going to get it for $20. Providing the dynamic range you need to prevent desense and intermod isn't that easy, nor is providing the sample rate you need to deal with a broad swatch of the receive spectrum at one time at the same time you keep that dynamic range.

The cost will be several times that (at least.) And there are units on the market (See RFSPACE) that are hundreds of dollars and even over a thousand, but oh, man, once you use one, you'll know why. I have an SDR-IQ (and write free support software for SDRs, including that one) and I live and breathe these things on a day to day basis.

Re:Going up... (3, Insightful)

BLKMGK (34057) | about 2 years ago | (#41386621)

Limitations aside, cheap hardware lets people get their hands dirty and understand the software. I am pretty ignorant of this stuff but interested in it. $20 is peanuts and having software explained for it is helpful. Perhaps users playing with the cheap stuff will become interested in it enough to spring for more expensive gear? As it stands now I wouldn't spend hundreds (I want to build other things too!) on an SDR I might not get much use out of but $20 is certainly doable.

What seems strange to me is that these TV tuners are out there cheap with all of this bandwidth but no one seems to build more dedicated tuners just for hacking around using the same stuff. Surely if someone knew what they were doing they could design something from these and sell it cheap for people to play with? Could they perhaps make some cheap design decisions that would make them more useful without breaking the bank?

Re:Going up... (3, Interesting)

ZorinLynx (31751) | about 2 years ago | (#41387143)

They're cheap because they're mass market items. A lot more people buy TV dongles to watch TV than they do to mess around with SDRs.

The hobbyist market for SDRs is tiny, and thus it would be very cost-ineffective to manufacture them for just this market. Instead we're taking something that already exists (TV tuners), is mass market, and by coincidence, just happens to be a software-defined radio, and re-purposing it.

A good analogy would be modifying an existing bicycle to be an electric bicycle, as opposed to manufacturing a dedicated electric bicycle from scratch. Sure, the latter will probably perform better and look nicer but it would be orders of magnitude more expensive, because the market for electric bicycles is small.

(99% of the electric bikes on the market are just modified mountain bikes)

Re:Going up... (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 2 years ago | (#41390727)

They're cheap because they're mass market items. A lot more people buy TV dongles to watch TV than they do to mess around with SDRs.

Using commercial TV hardware to do radio isn't new. Many years ago, the Yaesu FRG9600 used a commercial TV tuner to build a wideband multi-mode receiver. It was kind of a shock to pay good money for the radio, and then open it up to see that almost the whole thing was just one of the ubiquitous PLL/VCO based TV tuners.

As for the specs not being really great, you don't always need a $1000 radio. Sometimes all you need is a $20 one.

Re:Going up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41386715)

You want good performance from an SDR, you're not going to get it for $20.

Of course these dongles are just a fluke. A crappy $20 digital TV dongle that just happens can be re-purposed into an SDR.

The cost will be several times that (at least.)

I'd pay several times $20, say less than $100, for a decent (it doesn't have to be great, just decent) wide-band SDR receiver, but several hundred dollars or more is out of my price range.

Re:Going up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41387159)

Yeah, also my phone is really a terrible desktop computer.

Re:Going up... (3, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#41389577)

These super-cheap little dongles are *terrible* performers. They suffer from de-sense when nearby strong stations transmit, tend to have I/Q balance problems, and so on.

You want good performance from an SDR, you're not going to get it for $20. Providing the dynamic range you need to prevent desense and intermod isn't that easy, nor is providing the sample rate you need to deal with a broad swatch of the receive spectrum at one time at the same time you keep that dynamic range.

The cost will be several times that (at least.) And there are units on the market (See RFSPACE) that are hundreds of dollars and even over a thousand, but oh, man, once you use one, you'll know why. I have an SDR-IQ (and write free support software for SDRs, including that one) and I live and breathe these things on a day to day basis.

Yeah, but if you're wanting to experiment with SDRs, do you suggest a hobbyist go out and spend $500+ on a USRP or other high-quality SDR? Or $20, and then make the investment?

You get what you pay for, but damn for $20, I won't complain about lousy performance when getting started.

Most SDRs are basically overglorified soundcards - they consist of a tuner frontend coupled with common audio ADCs (thanks to commercially available 192kHz/24 bit and 96kHz/24bit ADCs meant for studio and mastering work).

Of course, this $20 dongle is 1MHz, but 8 bits (for $20, that's pretty good - high sampling rate ADCs get expensive the faster and more bits you want - top end 100MS/s 24bit can easily run $100+ in 1,000 quantity).

It's just like people complaining the Raspberry Pi is useless because it's a wimpy processor (though coupled with a fairly good GPU), when (Pandaboard/BeagleBoard/ODROID/etc) gets you far better. Yes, it's true, but the Pi's only $35, versus $150 for the rest.

There are SDR-based transceivers on the market for a couple of grand that are considered excellent (see FlexRadio) - for under $2000 you can get one, and their latest gen which doesn't expose I/Q data (we're talking about effectively sampling the antenna port! No downconversion so no messing with I/Q signals) can be had for around $6K-ish.

Re:Going up... (2)

mpilsbury (513793) | about 2 years ago | (#41391179)

The FUNcube Dongle http://www.funcubedongle.com/ [funcubedongle.com] is good value for money. It has reasonable performance, and starts at 105GBP.

Re:Going up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41388053)

Has slashdot no more articles to post?

No description? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41386305)

At least the author was kind enough to provide links that explain things.

Re:No description? (3, Informative)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#41386509)

At least the author was kind enough to provide links that explain things.

well, it's a dupe so why bother with explanations?

anyhow, http://www.gnss-sdr.org/documentation/gnss-sdr-operation-realtek-rtl2832u-usb-dongle-dvb-t-receiver [gnss-sdr.org] if you're wondering what kind of things can be done with it, one of the uses is receiving gps signals..

They're almost all gone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41386331)

Elonics who designed the dongles and made the RF chip is shuttered. So there are no more available

Re:They're almost all gone (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41386593)

Fresh version of rtlsdr.dll is now available at the osmocom site http://sdr.osmocom.org/trac/wiki/rtl-sdr

This also supports the R820T tuner chip.

800Mhz? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41386365)

Is that FCC ban against full band scanners still in effect? Hopefully software defined radio will render the FCC obsolete, and make such restrictions impossible to enforce.

Re:800Mhz? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41386513)

unfortunately they will probably just forbid SDR altogether

Re:800Mhz? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41386571)

The chips have a notch in them "for technical reasons". Three guesses where that notch is.

Re:800Mhz? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41387501)

Im no radio expert but with most of the chips

The sites all say the gap is between 1100 - 1250 MHz
Cell and police, etc are 700-950 (ish)......thought 3g/lte/edge are in the 1Ghz-2.5Ghz
which *should* be picked up by the chip (how i read it)

The only thing I can tell is in the "notch" (thanks to a hackaday comment) is
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Tactical_Information_Distribution_System

Re:800Mhz? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41387613)

This is completely false, all of the supported tuner chips work fine at this frequency... also, why should companies making tuner chips used for European terrestrial television care about US laws at all?

Re:800Mhz? (1)

mla_anderson (578539) | about 2 years ago | (#41390591)

If the tuner is designed to work with a cable system there will be no "notch". Cable systems go from 47 MHz to 1000 MHz.

Re:800Mhz? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#41386781)

They can ban it for the muggles, but all my ham gear will receive anything and does not have any channels blocked out.

More info (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41386377)

Reddit also has a section devoted to these dongles: http://www.reddit.com/r/rtlsdr

A list of USB tuners capable of doing this and where to get them:
http://www.reddit.com/r/RTLSDR/comments/s6ddo/rtlsdr_compatibility_list_v2_work_in_progress/

Re:More info (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41391085)

You're doing God's work

Wow, dog. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41386397)

So, they made a radio out of a radio. And it only cost as much as a radio! How impressive!

Re:Wow, dog. (3, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 2 years ago | (#41386745)

It's radios all the way down.

Re:Wow, dog. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41387073)

So, they made a radio out of a radio. And it only cost as much as a radio! How impressive!

If you think can find a 50Mhz - (nearly) 2200Mhz radio in the market in that price you deeply mistaken.

Re:Wow, dog. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41387563)

It's an ADC attached to a USB controller on one side and a wire on the other.
It should cost all of maybe twenty cents.

You (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41389151)

..obviously know nothing about high-performance, multi-MS/s ADCs and RF electronics.

Re:Wow, dog. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41387161)

Yo Dawg, we heard you liked radios...

Re:Wow, dog. (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 2 years ago | (#41387669)

Yeah, initially, I thought they had made a GPLed s/w for reading radio signals on a baseband... But then, I remembered that it's GNU, and there is less to it than meets the eye.

Re:Wow, dog. (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 2 years ago | (#41387967)

I knew something was fishy right in the title. It started with $20 and had GNU in it.

Yeah, I know, I know. Don't recite the GPL at me. I'm an apostate. Rage on if necessary.

Re:Wow, dog. (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 2 years ago | (#41389487)

Generally, when I see 'radio', I think in this day & age about the RF receiver part of a Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or GPS device, and that this software was about reading the output of that RF circuit to a baseband, and telling the baseband how to operate it. Something that will enable eliminating those evil binary blobs that deny the FSF gang their 'freedom'. The last thing I think about is taking my TV dongle & turning it into a radio. About as useful as turning a motorcycle into a bicycle.

Re:Wow, dog. (1)

Bistromat (209985) | about 2 years ago | (#41391957)

How about receiving aircraft transponder signals [github.com] with one? Or marine traffic position reports [github.com] ? Both applications will work with this $20 dongle. There's quite a bit more to "radio" than Justin Bieber's latest track.

Not quite (2)

ArchieBunker (132337) | about 2 years ago | (#41387861)

A feature was discovered that allows you to do your own decoding. Otherwise this dongle is only good for TV reception in Europe. Now you can receive any kind of analog or digital data as long as it fits in the bandwidth window. Use an upconverter and you can scan the shortwave bands in 2MHz chunks. This $20 dongle does what WinRadio charges $500 for.

Oblig. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41386443)

Soap not included.

these things are cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41386497)

I use a program called Evrytania LTE Cell Scanner (it's on github) and I am able to detect 7 LTE radio cells on 806 MHz here in Germany and 5 cells on 796 MHz. The cool part is that SDR# doesn't even show much discernible signal on the waterfall plot when I tune into these frequencies. The error correction code and 4 fold repetition of the LTE's Master Information Block on the broadcast channel is so strong that you can detect those cells even with a terrible signal to noise ratio. Very cool!

HDSDR (1)

Dishwasha (125561) | about 2 years ago | (#41386505)

I should point out that HDSDR [hdsdr.de] is another software radio project.

Nah, it's Windows-only. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41386551)

Subject says all.

Re:Nah, it's Runs On WINE. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396263)

Subject Says all.

Whats the point? (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 2 years ago | (#41387245)

"Granted, the included antenna isn't much and the performance of the receiver is not spectacular, but for $20 or $30, how can you complain?"

You can't complain, but you can find it irrelevant. There's almost no useful content on FM radio anyway.

Turning a $20 dongle into a HAM transceiver, THAT would be useful...

Re:Whats the point? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41387507)

Soft rock isn't much more then $20, plus the sound card. Its a full on transceiver. Better the sound card the better the performance, you don't re a high end card though many use built in sound cards

Re:Whats the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41387947)

Softrock is limited to 192KHz of bandwidth by the soundcard. This is good for 2.8MHz.

Re:Whats the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41390033)

Yes it is, which in the 50+ mhz spectrum is usefull (once in awhile) but in the HF band (which is what I replied to) its not. Plus the $20 dongle is 8bit where even simple onboard sound cards are 16bit or higher. which is alot more useful.

Im not discounting the $20 dongle, I have one, its an amazing price for what your getting. Im just saying if your looking for a SDR HF transiever (which the dvb dongle isnt) the softrock is a viable solution and a similarly low price for what your getting. They are two very different markets, therfore cant be compared directly.

Re:Whats the point? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41387569)

Note that the range is 40 - 2200 MHz with dongles that use the Elonics E4000 tuner, and 42 - 1766 MHz with dongles that use the R820T tuner. So you can receive a lot more than FM radio...

*sigh* (2)

ArchieBunker (132337) | about 2 years ago | (#41387911)

The point is you can tune from 60-1700MHz (with an L band gap) continuously. Show me a similar receiver for the same price.

Re:Whats the point? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41388029)

Well, that would be nice, but you can't turn it into a transceiver, because TV receivers have no transmission capability. (Also because any $20 wide-range transmitter would splatter like hell.)

But it is usable as a ham receiver -- did you really think people are excited about a $20 40MHz-2GHz SDR for listening to FM broadcasts? That's just used in TFA as a toy application that muggles can relate to, to demonstrate the setup. Add a (relatively) cheap single-band transmitter for each band you want to work, and you'd be okay...

But the real point, IMO, is that for $20 each, you can set up a dozen or more, and tinker with a crazy multiband phased array you could never afford with real ham transceivers. Granted, it's receive-only, but rx gain & selectivity is more important than tx anyway, and you can always throw more power up your tx antenna to match.

Further discussions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41387375)

Reddit has quite a bit of information, links, and discussions on this. I have 3 of these radios and find it to be very entertaining. Also, you tube has a number of videos showing them in action. For reddit, see r/RTLSDR for the discussions and further links.

This FP for GNAA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41387959)

A great way to try SDR (1)

stox (131684) | about 2 years ago | (#41387965)

For those who want to stick their toe in the water, this is a great way to get started.

Slashdot is WAAAAY behind.. (4, Informative)

LVSlushdat (854194) | about 2 years ago | (#41388559)

Geez.. Slashdot is *just* now finding out about these? There's been an info page over on Reddit regarding these for literally months. Darned thing work fine for ham radio 2m and 440 repeater monitoring, plus covers like 64-1700mhz.. http://www.reddit.com/r/RTLSDR [reddit.com] .. Sure, they have their problems, but for $20-$25, WHO THE HELL CARES??

Re:Slashdot is WAAAAY behind.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41389069)

Geez.. Slashdot is *just* now finding out about these?

No, it's a dup [slashdot.org] , geez.

Re:Slashdot is WAAAAY behind.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41389807)

I think the point was how to use GNU Radio with $20 hardware more than the hardware itself.

SDR more than just radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41409443)

SDR is more than just old fashioned radio. You can do new astounding things with it. For instance, you can listen to the whole band at once. Here is an example from our nearby university.(http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901) This sdr is hooked to the web and thousands of people can listen to different channels at the same time. Also the waterfall (You know what I mean when you see the site.) helps you find stations that have been there but are silent at the moment. For instance a HAM operator that did a CQ and is waiting for a response. These are just two examples of advantages that old fashioned radio cannot do. Wit these websdr radios anyone with internet connection can listen to radiowaves, You dont even have to own your own sdr.

Marc

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>