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The Journey of Radios From Hardware to Software

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the wave-of-the-future dept.

Software 114

An anonymous reader writes "The New York Times is carrying a story all about the process of replacing radios with software. The article tells the tale of Vanu Bose, son of the man who started the Bose company, and his quest to bring software to what was previously a hardware-only enterprise. He met a lot of resistance in the 90s to his ideas, because processor technology was not up to the task. Now that technology has caught up with Vanu, his software (and other products like it) are increasingly replacing now-outdated hardware components. 'Well-established companies like Motorola and Ericsson now use elements of software-defined radio for their base stations. But Mr. Bose was the first to come to market with software that could handle multiple networks with the same equipment. Software radio appears to offer an elegant solution to what has been a vexing problem: how to have a single handset, like a cellphone, communicate across multiple networks. For instance, the G.S.M. standard, for global system for mobile communications, is used broadly in Europe, and most notably in the United States by AT&T.'"

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first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20716435)

I am retarded.

An interesting idea (3, Interesting)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716515)

It's amazing what can sometimes be done in software. You can make a simple AM-band transmitter using a microcontroller and two resistors -- with everything done in software. MCUs are fun!

Re:An interesting idea (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716637)

I could do it with a 1969 microwave. I am sure McGiver could do it with a rock and a used condom. No software needed!

Re:An interesting idea (2, Insightful)

inflex (123318) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716659)

Got schematic of this device?

Re:An interesting idea (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716895)

His plan has three components, do you really need a pretty picture? It sounds like it'd be a pretty simple AM transmitter, and have lots and lots of out-of-band transmission.

Re:An interesting idea (4, Informative)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717469)

His plan has three components, do you really need a pretty picture? It sounds like it'd be a pretty simple AM transmitter, and have lots and lots of out-of-band transmission.

Well, yeah. Square wave outputs do tend to generate alllll sorts of harmonics. But it does technically work. If I were serious about it, I'd at least add a capacitor across the output, to make some attempt at filtration.

The "schematic" involved an 8-pin microprocessor, with two outputs each connected to a 1k resistor. The other ends of both resistors were connected to the antenna. Not very efficient, but as a proof of concept, it was a cool toy. Tuning was completely via software (tweak the timing loop to provide the correct waveform.)

You want pictures? Happy to oblige. (The idea was to see just how simple a transmitter I could make...)

http://www.intellectualism.org/electronics/schematic.jpg [intellectualism.org]

http://www.intellectualism.org/electronics/Closeup.jpg [intellectualism.org]

Re:An interesting idea (1)

Sigurd_Fafnersbane (674740) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718349)

Why do you have two outputs from the IC?

Re:An interesting idea (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718905)

Have you considered looking up the pinout guide and sussing it out yourself?

Re:An interesting idea (1)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 7 years ago | (#20721327)

To do voltage division. There are three possible voltage levels (since the resistors are equal): Both low (which results in a low output), both high (which results in a high output), and one high/one low, which results in a medium/neutral output.

Re:An interesting idea (3, Informative)

stevew (4845) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719981)

My company has IP for a FPGA based FM radio that meets all FCC harmonics requirements - and it has the same kind of external requirements. - I believe in our case it's an RC on the TTL compatible output. This isn't software defined in the traditional meaning of the term - but the FPGA is implementing the same algorithms the software is implementing. So it's soft in the way an FPGA is soft.- but the idea is identical to the MPC version mentioned above as far as the outputs are concerned.

Bottom line - the harmonics can be taken care of by wave-shaping, i.e. you take the output load configuration into equation as you design the radio.

Re:An interesting idea (1)

BillyBlaze (746775) | more than 7 years ago | (#20721209)

You can also make [erikyyy.de] an AM radio with your CRT monitor.

Re:An interesting idea (1)

darkshadow (102598) | more than 7 years ago | (#20723105)

I used to pickup CB broadcasts on the built-in speakers on my monitor.

Obvious Next Step (1)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716561)

This seems like a "duh" improvement. If you can hard-wire some logic then clearly you can implement the same logic in software, gaining the ability to update the logic, or make it more flexible in other ways, at the cost of speed and, possibly, power. Haven't there been a number of other devices that have evolved in this way?

Re:Obvious Next Step (1)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716607)

Yeah, firmware downloaded at driver load rather than flashed on a chip. I know its still software but the same idea.

Re:Obvious Next Step (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20716697)

It's not quite a "duh" nor is it clear without apply a lot of brain-power. In an analog radio there is no "hard-wired logic", its just the physical properties of the components engineered to work with electromagnetic waves. Software radios are only possible because digital processors are cheap/small/fast enough to approximate what the analog components are physically doing by crunching some very clever math (FFTs) in real-time.

Re:Obvious Next Step (1)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716735)

That is a logic, in the sense of a function that converts inputs to outputs in a regular way. Just not a boolean logic.

Re:Obvious Next Step (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717691)

You seem to be making two assumptions whose validity is not obvious to me:

(1) All physical processes are deterministic.
(2) All deterministic problems are computable.

It is well known that there are lots of deterministic problems which are not computable [wikipedia.org] .

If you somehow are making a deep philosophical statement that no problems derived from simulating physical reality are in this category of problems (a statement which as far as I can see needs justification), you still have the problem that they might well be computable only theoretically, in that a computer powerful enough to compute the answer would require more matter or space than exists in the physical universe.

Re:Obvious Next Step (3, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719879)

That is a logic, in the sense of a function that converts inputs to outputs in a regular way. Just not a boolean logic.
No, that's not considered "logic" in the electronics world. "Logic" in the electronics sense means circuits that do useful work using two states (high/low) to represent true and false. These are considered digital systems, as opposed to analog systems, one of which is the classic coil-capacitor-diode AM radio receiver.

Software radios are awesome! (1, Offtopic)

mind21_98 (18647) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716623)

As long as they're not restricted to Windows (see: Winmodems) :D

Re:Software radios are awesome! (1)

onineko (1096671) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717937)

Bad mind21_98, making me have flashbacks to dial-up tech support. No cookie.

AT+MS=V34
AT&F&C1&D2 /cry

It's the multiplexing (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716663)

It's not that a single software-defined radio is all that important. It's that you can do the transforms on the incoming waveform and then extract N different channels with one signal processing system. That's what's been making cellular base stations go for almost two decades. (All the hard work is on the receive side; transmission is easy.)

First generation cellular base stations (i.e. AMPS) had one big analog card per channel, each heavily shielded from its neighbors. The amount of hardware required was huge, and cell sites tended not to be fully populated with channel cards, so they were easy to overload.

Then things started to go digital, with combinations of analog and DSP components processing the signal. Both GSM and CDMA inherently assume digital processing, and in early systems, hard-wired special purpose components were used. As CPUs get faster, there's a steady trend toward using general purpose CPUs.

It's still rare to actually process RF directly in software. Usually, there's a local oscillator and mixer to down-convert the desired band to a working IF frequency, which is then digitized and processed. So it's only necessary to digitize at maybe 10-100MHz, not up in the gigahertz range.

For lower bands, though, a true software RF receivers [rfspace.com] are available. These just suck up everything from 0 to 30MHz and digitize it. An attached PC does all the hard work.

Maybe use block frequency converters? (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716807)

The 'true software receivers' are interesting, but ultimately I think they're overkill once you get out of the HF bands. Maybe this will be one of those 'who needs more than 128k?' comments, but I really don't see any reason why you need to sample the RF directly when you're dealing with VHF or UHF, it just seems excessive. If you want to digitize a 1GHz input, you're going to need to sample it at least 2GHz, and probably significantly higher if you want to do any cool DSP-type stuff. That's gotta start doing nasty things to the system's power consumption.

The satellite communications people have been using block downconverters for decades; every pizza-box satellite dish has one, to take the incoming signal from the feedhorn and drop it down to a level that can be sent down the coax to the set-top box without huge line losses. Some of them can work on fairly broad frequency ranges (like several GHz at once, for some of the Ku-band ones), and are real engineering marvels.

That seems like a much more practical approach for cellphones than a direct-digitization one. I don't know if you'd be able to make one block downconverter/upconverter that would cover all the bands currently used by GSM phones (800-1200 MHz, I think?), but if not, it would be the only part you'd need to change when designing for one region vs another. As long as it used the same IF output, the SDR would only have to be designed around one frequency range, and could be heavily optimized in order to improve battery life.

didn't someone ... (2, Interesting)

sideswipe76 (689578) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717199)

Come up with a new division algorithm for sampling RF? Like, divide 3 instead of 2? I am not an EE but I remember reading it

Re:didn't someone ... (3, Interesting)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717227)

Something many people don't understand is that the Nyquist criterion applies to the bandwidth of the recovered signal, not to its carrier frequency. So if you want to recover a 10-kHz wide signal at 800 MHz, you don't need to sample at 1600 MHz... you just need to sample at 20 kHz, using an ADC with lots of front-end bandwidth.

That's an oversimplification, but it may be what you were thinking of.

Re:didn't someone ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20717443)

Did you now NewYorkCountryLawyer has you listed as a FOE? You must be an RIAA lover, which means you're full of shit. Go fuck yourself.

Re:didn't someone ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20717881)

He's not quite full of shit. He forgot to mention the impossibly narrow 10KHz bandpass filter at 800MHz.

Re:didn't someone ... (2, Informative)

Sigurd_Fafnersbane (674740) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718257)

Nyquist apply to the signal you want to process. If you want to do your filtering in the digital domain you will first have to capture both your wanted signal and the signals you seek to suppress. Otherwise you have your selectivity in your hard-ware and not in your software.

The function of "ADC with lots of front-end bandwidth" is what the hardware in the RF front-end is doing in a traditional radio system.

In GSM you must be able to detect your own signal at say -108dBm while you have a blocker at 0dBm. Every 3dB is a doubling in power, 0dBm is 1mW so -108dBm is 1/(2^36)=1.45e-11 mW. If you need 3 bit s/n in your wanted signal to decode it you will need at least 3+36 bits to represent the samples.

As mentioned in the parent post you can do sub-sampling (If the carrier is at 1000MHz you can sample at a fraction like 100MHz) as long as your signal have a bandwidth smaller than half the sampling frequency. The fly in the ointment is that your blocker in GSM can be from DC to 12.7GHz and a blocker at any multiplum of the sampling frequency will interfere with the desired signal. If you are allowed 5 exceptions to the blocker requirement you will need to sample with at least 12.7GHz/5 meaning >2GHz sampling frequency.

While this is possible it is not the simplest or the lowest power consuming way of doing it.

This is why in any practical radio receiver you will have band filtering before your A/D converter and this filter is NOT implemented in SW.

Re:didn't someone ... (1)

Agripa (139780) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719109)

In GSM you must be able to detect your own signal at say -108dBm while you have a blocker at 0dBm. Every 3dB is a doubling in power, 0dBm is 1mW so -108dBm is 1/(2^36)=1.45e-11 mW. If you need 3 bit s/n in your wanted signal to decode it you will need at least 3+36 bits to represent the samples.


Resolving the 108 dB dynamic range requires 18 bits and not 36. The RF energy is measured in power which is impedance agnostic while A/D and D/A converters deal with voltages. Of course even a converter with 18 bit performance is fantasy at the sample rates involved for converting the entire GSM band without significant RF selectivity.

dB = 6.02 x n

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal_to_noise_ratio [wikipedia.org]

Re:didn't someone ... (1)

Sigurd_Fafnersbane (674740) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719337)

You are right about the 18 bits for the dynamic range. The three bits for having enough s/n of the wanted signal is still needed though so it would be 21 bit.

You are also right that this is slightly academic since no-one would implement a handset in this way.

I am also rather sure that even the base-station in the story is using a band-select filter in front of the LNA to limit the signal to in-band blockers.

Re:didn't someone ... (1)

Agripa (139780) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719911)

Base stations are getting better all of the time with improvements in the processors and converters. The last time I checked the most cost effective designs split the frequency band into 20 to 40 MHz slices for conversion.

Re:didn't someone ... (1)

Sigurd_Fafnersbane (674740) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720097)

Limiting your in-put bandwidth to 20-40MHz is a big help against blocking signals. The most power-full blockers for a base-station will either be out-of-band blockers like TV broad-casting, radar or other applications or it will be handsets from competing cellular providers that operate outside the providers own licensed band.

It would make sense for an operator to order base-stations with a duplex filter only wide enough to cover the frequencies for which the operator have a license.

All modern handsets have power control so the base-station will order handsets to reduce transmitting power so the s/n is not bigger than necessary. This will enable faster frequency re-use and more effective spectrum useage. An added bonus is that this reduce the dynamic range for the base-station and consequently makes it easier to implement an A/D converter that can handle multiple channels.

Since a handset will move around and can roam between multiple operators the requirements for a handset is bigger. You need the full dynamic range since yout own operator may have weaker signals than other carriers in your present cell and you still need to decode yuor own channel.

Re:didn't someone ... (1)

Agripa (139780) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720707)

Since a handset will move around and can roam between multiple operators the requirements for a handset is bigger. You need the full dynamic range since yout own operator may have weaker signals than other carriers in your present cell and you still need to decode yuor own channel.


Handsets certainly face a different set of challenges but having to only transmit and receive on a single channel or pair helps a lot. For many years now even completely analog receivers often have had varactor tuned RF filters before the first mixer to improve performance.

I have seen the specifications on a couple of different digital electronic warfare resistant receivers and they often include a limited number of electronically tunable notch filters to block strong interfering signals both inside and outside of the channel passband. Even the HPSDR has a filter module to improve performance of the 30MHz direct sampling receiver:

http://hpsdr.org/wiki/index.php?title=HPSDRwiki:Community_Portal [hpsdr.org]

Re:didn't someone ... (1)

gregorio (520049) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718325)

Something many people don't understand is that the Nyquist criterion applies to the bandwidth of the recovered signal, not to its carrier frequency. So if you want to recover a 10-kHz wide signal at 800 MHz, you don't need to sample at 1600 MHz... you just need to sample at 20 kHz, using an ADC with lots of front-end bandwidth.
If your radio is entirely based on software, then you'll need to do the filtering and de-modulation using digital filters and that will handle the "entire" wave and will actually need much more than just the Nyquist criterion. The Nyquist criterion is related to *minimum reconstruction*, but it is not sufficient for real-world digital filter applications, where you need a more than that, to compensate for quantization, ADC linearity, varying ADC capture time, and DSP rounding and truncation errors.

So without an analog-based FM circuit in front of your DSP, you'll need 2GHz or more. For a radio, that's stupid.

Re:didn't someone ... (1)

LM741N (258038) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719155)

If what you say is true, then how do you channelize your wide band receiver?

Somewhere there has to be an analog filter that is one channel wide. Cellular handsets, whether GSM or CDMA use SAW filters for that job and synthesizers to mix the desired signal down to the SAW filter freq.

Re:didn't someone ... (1)

Sigurd_Fafnersbane (674740) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719443)

You can get around the channel select SAW filter by using direct conversion.

In a modern handset (not software radio) you would use direct conversion meaning that you would create two sets of mixing products between your incoming signal and two copies of an LO running at the carrier frequency 90 degrees out of phase with each other.

The desired signal would be represented by the resulting complex signal from the two mixers (real and imaginary part) and the output from the mixers will be low pass filtered to remove blocking signals from the carrier frequency.

Implementing a low pass filter on-chip is so much easier than implementing an on-chip band-pass filter for channel selection at an IF.

Re:didn't someone ... (1)

LM741N (258038) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719801)

High band CDMA is 1930 to 1990Mhz. So in your already complex DC chip you are going to put an ADC running at a multiple of 60Mhz? In your dreams. The technologies required are different for high speed logic and low noise figure microwave. SiGe comes close.

In real direct conversion handsets there still is a synthesizer, there still is filtering to meet Adjacent Channel Power (ACP) requirements and strong signals out of band as these radios are full duplex. So you really haven't gained much vs. the traditional heterodyne receiver. SAW filters are pennies in volume.

Re:didn't someone ... (1)

Sigurd_Fafnersbane (674740) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719993)

Adjacent Channel Power requirements can be handled by the on-chip low-pass filters. In CDMA2000 you have a channel bandwidth of around 1200kHz so you implement channel select low-pass filters with 600kHz bandwidth which is very do-able on-chip. These filters are analogue (they have to be before the A/D).

Re:didn't someone ... (1)

LM741N (258038) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720751)

You still need a duplexer (I don't know if CDMA2000 uses SAW based ones), LNA, some sort of gain. ADC's don't work with microvolt signals I don't believe. Otherwise they would have to have incredible noise figures. Something ahead of them has to establish the NF and provide gain.

Re:didn't someone ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20721499)

good to see some people do understand Nyquist

Re:Maybe use block frequency converters? (1)

wramsdel (463149) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717283)

If you want to digitize a 1GHz input, you're going to need to sample it at least 2GHz

Nope, not quite. If you want to digitize a signal with a bandwidth of 1 GHz, you'd need to sample it at at least 2 GHz. You can sample a signal with a 1 GHz center frequency at significantly less than 2 GHz as long as the signal is sufficiently band-limited (to prevent aliasing) and the bandwidth of the data converter and front-end are greater than 1 GHz. It's not uncommon to find affordable ADCs with sample rates around 100 MHz and bandwidths in excess of 500 MHz.

Re:Maybe use block frequency converters? (1)

dlinear (1053422) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719855)

The problem with block downcoverters is that that is not truly a software radio and limits flexibility immediately, by reducing the spectrum available. This is the limiting factor of an modern day SDR system. Without the block downcoverters though it's hard to keep unwanted signals out (CDMA with a higher signal power then WiFi for example). But with modern day hardware and signal processing capabilities a novel prefilter can be designed, say with 20MHz tuning blocks that are to be completely digitized by an ADC (at a reasonable amount of power, say 10uW).

If you want some real technical info on SDR, check out Dr. Abidi's paper
The Path to the Software-Defined Radio
http://www.ee.ucla.edu/faculty/papers/abidi_JSSC_may2007.pdf [ucla.edu] [pdf]

Switch From DSP's? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20717215)

What I don't understand is the reason for switching from DSP's to general purpose CPU's. DSP's usually use much less power and can do work faster if the job fits their design. Is it simply for the conveniences that off the shelf CPU's offer such as easier development because of their ubiquity?

Requirement for any type of Implant (1)

MutualDisdain (998780) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716683)

I think this will undoubtedly be a requirement for any type of implant in the human body. No one will want a piece of hardware in their body that has to be surgically removed in order to be upgraded.

Two Words (4, Informative)

keithmo (453716) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716779)

GNU Radio [gnu.org] .

Re:Two Words (2, Informative)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717207)

I'm not sure if they're going to be represented this year, but I've seen some GNU Radio stuff shown at the annual ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference, which happens to be coming up next week in Hartford, CT. I see a couple of SDR-related topics on the schedule, including the Sunday seminar.

Even if you're not an amateur radio operator, it's worth checking out if you're interested in SDR. And the banquet speaker this year is Bruce Perens of Debian and OSI fame.

http://www.tapr.org/dcc [tapr.org]

Re:Two Words (1)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717499)

GNU Radio is also a good example of the cost downside to SDR. The basic board, the USRP [ettus.com] , costs $700. And then you gotta buy daughterboards.

I figure in a few more years we'll get cheap SDR.

Re:Two Words (3, Informative)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717803)

You can use a capture card with a BT878 chip as a cheap entry into SDR and GNU Radio. See Here [domenech.org]

The card I have didn't require any kind of modifications, and I've successfully captured signals all the way up to about 400kHz directly from the air simply using a long wire, including digital radio (the unfortunately named DRM [wikipedia.org] ) signals.

Re:Two Words (3, Interesting)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717543)

What I find interesting (and horrifying at the same time) from that site, is that the MPAA and the FCC are actually discussing legally limiting who can purchase fast ADCs in order to protect their IP. So, what, if they got their way, I'd have to get some sort of license to purchase an integrated circuit because I might use it to build an HDTV receiver that they can't control? What a bunch of jerks!

A little too much feature creep. (1, Offtopic)

raydubicki (1129053) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716783)


Companies seem to forget that there is still a market for the simple. It took me two weeks of looking to find a piece of stand alone desktop equipment that satisfactorily met the following requirements:

1) AM/FM radio
2) AC plug
3) Headphone jack
4) Let's try keeping it under $30
5) Doesn't look like crap.

Sometimes, all you want is to listen to the baseball game on the radio. I didn't want to stream online (especially paying the usurious fees charged by MLB). I didn't want to change batteries. I didn't want to bother the folks in the rest of the office. Is that too much to ask, or is it simply not sexy enough for the modern consumer electronics market?

Re:A little too much feature creep. (2, Funny)

Propaganda13 (312548) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716831)

Next thing you know, they'll want to communicate with these radios.

Re:A little too much feature creep. (3, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716845)

Dear Mr. Barely Glanced at the Fine Summary:

This is about radios in a variety of communication devices. Like cell phones. And cell phone towers. Especially cell phone towers. Not so much your Sony Walkman et al.

Looking in the wrong section. (2, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716929)

Buy an alarm clock from a drug store. They often have AM/FM radios thrown in there.

Why does it have to "not look like crap?" Why can't it look like you didn't overspend on sony quality?

Now.. whatever happened to mass-produced small crystal radios? Those'd be interesting for hurricane kits, especially if they could tune the broadcast FM band (but obviously not as an FM receiver. You can still hear FM with an AM reciever, it just doesn't sound all that great. Voice is fine, though.)

Re:Looking in the wrong section. (0)

ByteSlicer (735276) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717783)

Buy an alarm clock from a drug store. They often have AM/FM radios thrown in there.
I never saw an alarm clock with a headphone jack (like the parent post requested). It would defeat the purpose of an alarm clock, I guess ;)

Re:Looking in the wrong section. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20718535)

The upgraded model of my alarm clock has a phone out. Apparently the ideas was to put a speaker inside your pillow so you could listen to the radio and hear the alarm without waking everyone in the room. Perhaps something with a similar design philosophy still exists.

Crystal radios ?? (1)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719003)

Are not particularly practical for FM. Yes, an AM radio can demodulate FM through a technique known as "slope detection". Crystal radios bandwidth slope is so spread out that, even if crystal radios worked well at 88 to 108 MHz frequencies, the recovered modulation would be so small as to not be usable, even though that's wide-band FM. Years ago I had some reasonable luck receiving FM broadcast signals with a home built super-regenerative receiver using a single tube, but that's far from being a crystal set.

I've got a fair amount of experience with crystal sets for the AM broadcast band and even short-wave to a lesser extent. I built the wonderful Heathkit CR-1 back when I was about 11 years old and was able to receive stations from all across the US and even Cuba in the Winter. I built a number of them from scratch, too. Lots of fun, even today, but you do have to have an outside antenna and a ground for them to work at all well.

Re:A little too much feature creep. (1)

Varitek (210013) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717949)

especially paying the usurious fees charged by MLB
MLB's audio service is $15 a year, for every game. It's a bargain.

Re:A little too much feature creep. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20718933)

Your answer, sir, is a pawn or thrift shop. With an addiction to CBC radio, I needed a radio for work-listening as well. For less than $5, I found a leather-cased transistor radio that fits all your requirements. It still took batteries as well, when new.. C cells, but had been converted for 9v use. Not only does it 'not look like crap', but looks positively retro ~ and potentially keeps it from the landfill.

~

I read this and... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716813)

replacing radios with software.

I read this and end up believing that my next radio will be delivered to me as a software printout on a sheet of paper.

Re:I read this and... (2, Funny)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718241)

I read this and end up believing that my next radio will be delivered to me as a software printout on a sheet of paper.
Typing in program listings? I thought that had pretty much died out by the end of the 1980s, and thank God for that. It was a PITA back then, can you imagine how long it would take you to type in software nowadays? If we generously assume that one can fit a 16KB BASIC listing onto one A4/legal-sized page, a 16MB program (pretty small by today's standards) would require 1000 pages!

(Meanwhile, a double-layer DVD's worth of data would need roughly half a million pages, so you'd need a small truck to deliver 500 or so Yellow Pages-sized volumes to your house. And I wouldn't want to be the one typing all that data in. Particularly not if I had to save it to cassette...)

Anyway, your idea is silly. In truth, your next radio will come in the form of a CD-ROM ;-)

Bose blows (1, Informative)

xs650 (741277) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716849)

I hope it's better than his fathers hardware. Overpriced crap that only clueless people who like to pay too much for popular brand name products buy. And unavoidably bought by millions of car buyers that don't have a choice.

Mod parent up (2, Informative)

Paktu (1103861) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716883)

This is absolutely true. Bose products are junk, but years of marketing have convinced the public that they sell "premium" sound equipment.

Re:Mod parent up (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716963)

They do do some clever audio munging^h^h^h^h^h^h^hprocessing to make it sound "fuller." And they claim to do it in hardware ironically, especially as they don't do anything that couldn't be done with cheap DSP.

Re:Bose blows (1)

ageoffri (723674) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717067)

Truer words have rarely been posted here. For people who care about audio quality Bose is a complete joke.

No highs, no lows, gotta be Bose.

Re:Bose blows (4, Funny)

dreddnott (555950) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717347)

I first heard this as a charming little poem:

Got no highs? Got no lows?
Only midrange! Must be Bose.

Re:Bose blows (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718259)

If Bose is not a quality audio solution, then who is? Are we back to Sony, Pioneer? Or is there some other premium band? And, what do you even look for? Bose at least plays there stuff in a store, you can hear it, and it sounds pretty good. So, what kind of music do you listen to that demands something else?

Everyone says Bose sucks, but no one ever says, well, who is better.

Also, what's the -best- sound card for hardware wavetable MIDI synthesis?

Re:Bose blows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20718335)

i lol'd.

Re:Bose blows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719301)

Dude. Buy a Krell [krellonline.com]

Speakers may suck, but maybe the math is good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20717381)

Sure, Bose speakers are WAY over-rated, but they do a good job producing adequate* sound from very small boxes by using some dirty electronic tricks. For people with "tin ears" who put a premium on space, it is a winning combo.

As for true high-fidelity "audiophile" sound, they are a joke. There is simply no way to get truly good sound out of a single cone in a box that small. The physics just don't work out.

But if some of the math Bose came up with to make bad speakers is actually useful in a software radio, then hey, give the man his props.

*for most people who are not critical listeners. Remember, tons of people go around listening to 128k or less mp3s on the crappy iPod headphones and think it sounds awesome.

Re:Bose blows (really?) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20723169)

If Bose products suck so bad someone should tell Michael Jackson... even during pre-insaity days he was using Bose 802s. If there's anything he ever had done right it was music production. If you look up all the people he's toured with he only picks the best. Along with his studio production people/equipment. I also am a bass player and I went to a show where a guy was setting up to play w/ a SWR "workingman" head through a Bose 802 and I thought it was silly. But then he started playing and it sounded amazing.

Cell Phones (2, Interesting)

rebelcan (918087) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716947)

I'd really like to see this sort of thing being implemented in cell phones. Unfortunately, where I live, the provier with the best rate plans uses CDMA for their network. All the cool phones I'd like to have use GSM. Having a phone that could switch between the two would be freaking awesome.

Re:Cell Phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20717211)

Unfortunately, where I live, the provider with the best rate plans uses CDMA for their network. All the cool phones I'd like to have use GSM. Having a phone that could switch between the two would be freaking awesome.

Dual mode CDMA/GSM phones already exist, but they never sold well. The motorola A840 and the blackberry 8830 can do that.

Anyway, according to your criteria, you wouldn't want one, since you're interested in the coolness of existing GSM models. If the A840 and 8830 were "cool enough" you would have bought one already.

Re:Cell Phones (1)

ypps (1106881) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717439)

Imagine a system where there is no GSM or UMTS or WiMax or WiFi. Just one single radio network that automatically optimizes the communication for each terminal in the network, whether it's in the middle of a city or out at sea. A network where a user with a particular sim-card is free to choose which company or companies it want to use with that sim-card (no more roaming abroad or tie-in with a certain carrier).

That part about the sim-cards will come true approximately when hell freezes over, pigs fly and Windows becomes a Linux distro. But it would be pretty sweet.

Re:Cell Phones (1)

DDLKermit007 (911046) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717645)

I was talking to a Sprint Rep a month back when I was setting up a customer with EV-DO since they don't get Cable/DSL, and Satalite is a joke. I was bitching about their lack of GSM in their phones. Turns out they carry Blackberry phones with GSM radios in them now. No idea how well they work personally (not to mention I'll never buy a BB), but it is nice to see that some phone makers are getting smart enough to know they need to support both if they are going to deal with CDMA.

Re:Cell Phones (1)

JoeSavage (906113) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719179)

I presume you're speaking of the BlackBerry 8830, which has a dual-band GSM radio for the EGSM/DCS bands only. This means it doesn't work in America where they use GSM850/PCS bands. So, unfortunately, you can't pop in a T-Mobile or AT&T sim card and use it on their networks. But, as I work for a company that has standardized on Verizon as their corporate wireless provider, it's the only option if you want to have a single handset that works most everywhere.

Re:Cell Phones (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719591)

Our company just standardized on T-Mobile for our Blackberry users, as the new Blackberry Curve can take advantage of T-mobile@Home's Wifi phone server. While Verizon has a much larger network then T-Mobile, we can now just place a Wifi access point anywhere we need better coverage (branch offices, basement of HQ, home offices of people, etc).

Re:Cell Phones (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718419)

It is not just radio. Both have a big protocol stack most of which is in real time behind the radio. When you add up all the resources necessary as well as all the fees to leeches like Qualcom it stops making sense. This is besides the fact that the non-GSM networks are not going to be particularly happy to allow phones that can do GSM as well. As far as they are concerned that is a sure way to leak customers.

gnuradio (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717247)

actually, there is gnuradio, which is a project (including available hardware) that lets people experiment with software radio. there are quite a few interesting things the folks from the project have done.

if anyone's interested, more here:
http://www.gnu.org/software/gnuradio/doc/exploring-gnuradio.html [gnu.org]

and a bunch of links on wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnuradio [wikipedia.org]

Not the first time I noticed this (3, Interesting)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717453)

I think the title of this posting could be construed as a bit misleading, in that it says 'radio' but when you read the attributed article, they're talking about cellphones, not things like broadcast radio or other areas where RF transmission and reception are necessary. It may or may not be obvious to anyone, but there's no way that tuned RF circuits can be completely eliminated, at least if you're talking about over-the-air transmissions; you still need to at least provide amplification (which must be a tuned circuit) and impedance-match to your antenna (which again must be a tuned circuit).

Re:Not the first time I noticed this (1)

Jott42 (702470) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717779)

RF reception and transmissio is very important for cellphones. And tuned circuits can be eliminated completely, but this puts ridiculous demands on the AD/DA-converters for most real world applications. The DA-converter could leave enough power to drive the antenna, and impedance matching could be broadband, and thus not tuned. A more practical application is to have a wideband frontend, and then sample a complete band, such as the 2.45 GHz ISM-band, and leave all the channel filters for different aplications (BT, WiFi, etc.) and demodulation to software. This will not be the most energy efficient implementation, but more flexible than dedicated tranciever chipsets.

Re:Not the first time I noticed this (1)

RKBA (622932) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719081)

Only for transmitting, not receiving. When I was a young child I made a serviceable AM radio receiver with nothing more than a Gillette Blue Blade (old fashioned double edged razor blade with a silicon coating) to act as a rectifier, a piece of wire for an antenna, and a cheap 99 cent ear piece to hear with. Fortunately for me, there was only one local station broadcasting with enough power to be heard through my jury-rigged radio receiver (KCOK in Tulare, California) otherwise I'd have had all sorts of interference problems. :-)

It was a good way for a young geek to spend a rainy afternoon when the power went out due to the storm, in the days before battery operated transistor radios became ubiquitous.

Vanu Bose's bitter battle with MIT (0)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717617)

MIT owns the software radio patent, but Vanu thinks he should pay no royalties because he was a key developer of the technology, which formed the basis for his PhD thesis. This [rediff.com] is an old article (1999), but I couldn't find a followup on the outcome.

In older days, his father Amar Bose's company was made possible because MIT let him have the patent for nothing. Now that Amar is (presumably) a billionaire from his high profit-margin products that gross $600 million a year, he has donated $6 million back to MIT. Whether or not that is generous, given that MIT made it all possible, is a matter of opinion I suppose.

For those who think the Boses should have owned the patents on their technologies outright, and not MIT, it is a complicated issue. I don't know about the Bose's particular cases, but keep in mind that usually PhD theses are not developed in a vacuum: ideas are discussed, topics are suggested, usually the thesis advisor is interested in the topic if not actively working on it already, there is a support staff to help develop it, etc.

Re:Vanu Bose's bitter battle with MIT (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718113)

Hmm, where I did my PhD there were specific rules on who gets to keep the patent (the institute itself, as far as I know). I'd think that of all places MIT has a probably very well worked out contract for this, which he agreed to when starting to work there. With his background, I can hardly imagine he didn't have the knowledge to find this out before starting at MIT, it will be hard for him to get the patent.

As for paying no royalties, I guess it's not the same as owning the patent. I wonder how it works, would it matter if his name was on the patent?

Re:Vanu Bose's bitter battle with MIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20718209)

It's not that the Boses need the money - for Amar, the royalties MIT is asking is like pocket change. (It seems he's joined in on this petty dispute.) I guess it's the principle of the thing - never mind what the contract says, the Boses should be treated differently from everyone else because, well, they are the Boses.

Re:Vanu Bose's bitter battle with MIT (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719087)

According to this [mit.edu] , it wasn't the royalties, it was that MIT demanded equity in the startup.

To paraphrase the argument, MIT its entitled to royalties, which are tied to the value of the patent, but not equity, since the company's value is more than just the patent (unless that company exists only to hold the patent).

Re:Vanu Bose's bitter battle with MIT (1)

RGRistroph (86936) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720199)

Our constitution allows for patents to be awarded to inventors, and an inventor is a type of human being. An institute cannot be an inventor. Of course thesis topics are not developed in a vaccuum, but if the thesis advisor was a co-inventor then just put his name on the patent too.

When places such as MIT demand a part of any patent before it is actually invented, and other corporations demand a piece of any patent even if the invention was developed outside of their environment, it corrupts the whole purpose of the patent system -- to make people try harder to invent things, thus advancing the state of science and the useful arts. Instead, it encourages the ambitious to establish suffocating institutional policies, hire lawyers, and make 200 page documents for new employees to sign.

I'm in favor of throwing out the whole patent system, at least for a couple of decades, until the current crop of professors, engineers, and corporate management that has been mentally poisoned by it retire and pass from the scene. Failing that, we ought to consider making patent rights non-transferable, so royalties have to be paid to the corporate employee who patented it, and that employee can accept royalties from anyone. IBM would switch to a policy of "you may never, ever, ever under any circumstance patent anything" pretty quickly !

Emergency Communications (2, Interesting)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717841)

I'd like to see the technology used to solve some of the inter-agency communications roadblocks that afflict the USA. Every agency has their own frequencies, protocols and hardware. In an emergency, they often find that they can't talk to any of the other responders. In addition, it would be great if the radios could work with the current cellular networks. This is one of the reasons that the military is investing money in SDR. Many people still remember the soldiers in Grenada who had to request close air support by using a phone card and making a call on a local wireline phone to Fort Bragg.

Re:Emergency Communications (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719189)

That's kind of the point. You need to talk to the State Police dispatcher to get a highway closed, just load up the Motorola SMARTNET protocol, pick the frequency (or have the radio search) and push the button. Need to contact a hospital for advice on what to do with the guy hopped up on PCP? Load up the P-25 profile and squeeze the pickle. Need to find out where you are? Open up the GPS reciever window. Want to get a Red Cross canteen to the fire line? Dial up the local ARES net and send the request.

BTW the biggest problem with inter-agency comms is not the radio - most agencies outside the large metros still use narrowband FM, either on VHF or UHF, and almost all commercial 2 ways are capable of being retuned. That is changing, thanks to the DHS money, and may be a step backward in the short term (although promoting P-25 as a standard helps). The biggest problem is that the radios bought are usually the cheapest things made, that are only programmed for one channel (and folks don't know how to use them anyway), and command centers become prime areas for turf wars and money pits.

Re:Emergency Communications (1)

Mr Hoffman (1100057) | more than 7 years ago | (#20721613)

Cellphones aren't viable for use in emergency services. The towers jam up, or tip over, or loose power. Or all three. Sure, having a cellphone is handy for patching patient information to a hospital or ordering up sandwiches and beverages for the emergency crews. But typical cellphone handsets just aren't built for rough service (eg: getting hit with a fire hose, falling off the running board of a moving fire truck), nor are cellular networks known for disaster-tolerance, nor are cellphones viable for handset-to-handset operations.

Digital trunking -- the equivalent of cellular telephone sold for land mobile radio -- only works if you have replacement towers and controllers available, and if you're within the coverage. This because the towers and communications centers are critical to the digital network, and these can be vulnerable. Digital trunking is computer-controlled radio. And we all know what can happen when computers and computer networks get confused or frustrated; when a digital client radio can't communicate with a digital server, we get a digital brick.

Analog radio -- like analog TV -- degrades rather more nicely than digital radio or digital TV. With analog, you tend to know when you're on the edge of coverage, or in a bad spot. With digital, you have a signal or you don't. You go from good to pixellated to down. And when moving from an analog trunking or analog repeater system to a digital system, you'll usually need more repeaters. Some radio installations will undersell the towers needed in order to low-ball the price or because they don't understand the differences in coverage in the margin, creating dead spots and incremental system costs. Or the upgrade to digital will cost more to provide the same service coverage.

Digital trunking is arguably a way for big vendors to sell big systems with big price tags with massively expensive handsets. A US$300-600 hand-held portable radio becomes a US$3000 to US$6000 radio. And a low-cost repeater or cross-band repeater becomes equally expensive. The FCC has had an affair with software-defined radio (SDR) for some years now. Makes impressive-sounding text content for presentations and papers and forward-looking sending-a-signal marketeering, and it helps sell up-rated gear.

Yes, there are some nice features in digital gear. Mobile Data Terminals and other such.

And SDR gear isn't there yet, either. Most (all?) existing current-generation radios are already software-programmed.

Interoperation isn't a case of needing fancy radios or massively expensive systems. It can be as simple as having spare radios available that you can hand out to another agency, if they don't already have your frequencies and regional programmed into their own radios. If you work with the local cops, you have their frequency.

And anybody that thinks that a national frequency will work has never seen what happens when a gazillion agencies all try to use it, after having never practiced using it or never used the frequency. Any such common frequency is just an invitation for a frequency pile-up. And who in their right mind would use it? For what? Sure, it looks nice in the poster for the communications band plan de jour.

And though they often get no credit for it and can often be subject to derision or outright scorn, ham radio operators are a far more valuable resource to emergency responders when disasters hit, and they're in a better position to provide backup communications than any radio network FEMA ever designed. Ham gear is inherently frequency agile. So we spend $3000 to $6000 per hand-held digital radios and big bucks for digital trunking to use the full capabilities of the radios -- some agencies are using these radios on existing old analog systems, wasting thousands each, and some large agencies have purchased radios that are not interoperable with adjacent departments -- and these folks can't interoperate with neighboring agencies on different bands -- or we work with the local hams. Sure, ham operators may not be pretty to look at or trendy, but they and their gear works.

FEMA and FCC and national and disaster interoperability are (also) ways to sell massive quantities of products. There are often cheaper ways to achieve the same or better interoperability. Having three or maybe four radios in each fire engine allows interoperation with all the local and regional agencies (which is still cheaper than one one-band digital radio, and provides coverage across three or four frequency bands), and the hams can provide additional coverage when needed. And three US$600 analog mobile radios can often trump one US$3000 digital radio. And a US$3000 radio programmed to use analog and an operator trained to know when to use the fallback trumps a digital brick.

Folks blindly helping emergency responders achieve transparent interoperability (or whatever the current buzz-phrase is) can be tossing money down a very big and very deep hole. A central issue with many of these oft-cited interoperation messes is that somebody bought or sold the wrong gear for their intended purpose -- or mis-programmed, mis-configured, mis-purchased, under-configured or mis-trained with the existing gear -- or got caught up in politics or a turf squabble -- and no national calling channels nor buying more and more expensive radio gear nor even the magic SDR pixie dust is ever going to be a cure for stupid.

The DoD's new Software-based Radio (3, Interesting)

flydpnkrtn (114575) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718065)

The Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS or 'jitters') is currently being tested by the US Army... it aims to be "everything in one box," and it was "originally planned to span a frequency range of 2 megahertz to 2 gigahertz. JTRS has been expanded to frequencies above 2 GHz to satisfy space communications requirements"

That's a direct quote from the Wikipedia article (which looks like it's pretty accurate), located here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JTRS [wikipedia.org]

I'm in the Army, and buddies of mine have played with it and can attest that "it's pretty cool" :)

You should see the aerial.. (1)

cheros (223479) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718167)

If you think that's impressive, think about what has to happen to an aerial to support all those different frequencies.

The aerials for these things are mostly ignored but are nothing short of impressive.

Re:You should see the aerial.. (1)

flydpnkrtn (114575) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718481)

Yes that does sound interesting... I've never actually gotten to play with a JTRS unfortunately, I've only heard about them.

Re:The DoD's new Software-based Radio (1)

hughk (248126) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719637)

It sounds like a wonderful system when it works and a maintenance disaster waiting to happen in the field. It is very difficult to produce something for the army, navy and the airforce. I suspect it will work probably at fixed installations but remain somewhat tricky elsewhere.

Software radio scaners (2, Interesting)

rec9140 (732463) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718441)

Any one interested in creating a new breed of software based radio scanners (those radios used to monitor police, fire, ems, and other signals) for modes not supported on current scanners or to add features can bring their skills to:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gnu_radio_scanner/ [yahoo.com]

This is a group looking to build on the GNU Radio blocks.

GNU Radio (1)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718673)

How come an article like this does not contain a link to GNU Radio [gnu.org] ?

Software replacing hardware... (4, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719435)

In theory, software (solid-state digital circuits) has huge advantages over hardware. Software offers extreme flexibility, no wear-and-tear, etc. If it worked as well as it should, in theory, there wouldn't be mechanical linkages just about anywhere, anymore. All the controls in your car would be electric, and a significant portion of your car's engine would be gone (no more cam shaft). The same would be true of most everything... If not replacing significant numbers of mechanical components, at least using software to precisely control it, and getting much better efficiency as a result. Yes, your refrigerator, microwave, etc. could all greatly benefit from software control.

There are just two big problems that have made software control a non-starter.

First is customization. Put a spring in the mechanics of an engine, and I can replace it with a shorter/longer/stronger/weaker spring. I can heat it up to weaken it, grind it down, etc... With software, you are given a black box, binary-only, with no documentation on how it works, and definitely no common interface to access and modify it. So every time car companies add another function to their cars' onboard computers, and take away mechanical systems, there's extreme resistance, as buyers know they're out of the loop, and if they want to adjust anything, or if something should go wrong, they can only take it to the select few company-blessed shops, which have paid the necessary bribes to get enough info to do just a few basic things with the onboard computer. And you're entirely screwed if you want more changes than that, because the company doesn't WANT you to, and without man millions of dollars on the line, you're not even a blip on their radar.

Despite what many believe, cost is almost never a problem. For low cost products, low-end micro-controllers can be found for pennies, and even cheaper are the basic I/O elements like thermistors, power meters, transistors, relays, etc. Yet even the dirt cheap processors sold today can do many millions of calculations per second, far faster than could be needed for damn near any products.

Second, and perhaps more important, is reliability. Computer hardware is EXTREMELY reliable. You can go buy a dirt cheap commodity CPU, RAM and MOBO, and be pretty damn sure it will run for 20 years without a SINGLE error. The only big exception to this is power supplies... a marginal one, not supplying enough power will cause a crash, but that generallyonly happens in the case of the cheapest no-name junk. What's more, go up a small step to a high quality MOBO, ECC RAM, redundant PSUs, UPS, etc., and you'll never ever see a hardware-induced glitch.

The reliability problem comes ENTIRELY from poor software, and mostly commonly available kernels, at that. People don't want to believe that, but the facts are that computers are 100% pure math machines, and math is 100% accurate. A computer will do exactly what you tell it to do, but most people are trying to program their computer through several million lines of indirection... If you write, in hex, a simple loop with a bit of processing, a computer will run it error-free, from here until doomsday, but programing a complex system in hex is much too hard, and human programmers aren't perfect enough to do so.

The only real possibility to ensure reliability with reasonable development time is something very much like a micro-kernel. You need a tiny bit (a few hundred KBs) of EXTREMELY-thoroughly audited code, that can very strictly manage memory, do strict input and bounds checking, carefully manage communications between independent modules of code, instantly tear-down and restart any bit of code which shows the slightest signs of an error, and also strictly ensuring real-time operation.

I'm not endorsing any product here. The fact is nothing like this exists. That is why we aren't seeing mechanical systems having components being replaced by software as quickly as they can be redesigned. Open source operating systems exist, but they are much, much too large, and almost entirely monolithic, which is completely inappropriate. There are real-time micro-kernels that exist, but they completely fail to meet the first criteria of being completely transparent and open for end-user modifications... While they may license source code to a big company, but they certainly don't let average people look under the skirt, and certainly wouldn't allow big companies to provide buyers with the full source code of the operating system, and license to use it as they see fit. Of course it's a moot point, as companies have their heads deep in the sand, unwilling to loosen their grip on their own code, or the hardware interface to interact with it, seeing an opportunity to get the benefits of both selling hardware, and very restrictively licensing their proprietary software.

So, for the time being, we will continue to see only the most brain-dead hardware functions being handed-off to software, with the notable exception of commercial aviation, where the money involved is so huge that nobody is going to argue when airlines demand full access to the computer code. With software defined radio, you can expect to see glitches from imperfect software right away, and the normal consumer resistance to buying this buggy black box, even though it's a great idea, in theory.

Re:Software replacing hardware... (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 7 years ago | (#20721619)

First is customization. Put a spring in the mechanics of an engine, and I can replace it with a shorter/longer/stronger/weaker spring. I can heat it up to weaken it, grind it down, etc... With software, you are given a black box, binary-only, with no documentation on how it works, and definitely no common interface to access and modify it.


You seem to be arguing that hardware is more flexible than software - but surely you are not that stupid?
A) How many cellphones now have user customizable parts like "springs"?
B) How do you know the software will be a closed-source binary blob?
C) Have you heard of an advanced software concept known as a "variable"? In your example we can assume that spring_length and spring_tension will be variables in the code. This either leads to something that can be user modified, or to a company selling different versions of the code for separate parameterizations.

KISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20720983)

People keep on forgetting the KISS principle, "Keep it Simple Stup*d". I can design a simple AM crystal detected with maybe 3 components. No amplifiers, very few points of failure.

An FM detector, a little more complex, but none too bad.

People think software is the cure to all ills. Software is simple the answer to the question nobody asked. Sure you can design a multi PROTOCOL system using Software (CDMA/TDMA, etc), but the underlying HARDWARE is where the real design complexity is.

It takes a skilled analog designer or electrical engineer to design the REAL decoding hardware. Any code monkey can eventually figure out the rest.

I'll stick to my trusty AM/FM/ShortWave radio, simple, elegant, and unlike most CodeMonkey ware (TM), it 'just works'.

SDR has been around for years (1)

BbMaj7 (61539) | more than 7 years ago | (#20722651)

Advanced Communications Technologies (ACT) in Australia was doing this with GSM back in 2000 (probably before). AFAICT they never did manage to make it work. Spent millions.

Anyone from ACT/SDR reading this could perhaps fill in more details.

I think the company is out of business now. Here's an early press release:

http://www.rmit.edu.au/browse/News%20and%20Events%2FFor%20Media%2FNews%2Fby%20date%2F2000%2F;ID=poid0yrprddq;STATUS=A [rmit.edu.au]

wet blanket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20722701)

I suspect that the FCC and DHS will somehow control
software defined radio so as to quash most of the great
things that the open source world might come up with.

After all, SDR is really, really threatening to the
status quo in wireless communications.

Unfortunately, the potential revolution in wireless
may mirror the outcome in wired communications:
pretty much the powers that were remain the powers
that are.
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