Category Archives: SDR

RTL-SDR

NooElec Sawbird GOES Barebones

Just a quick blog for showing how to hook up the NooElec Sawbird GOES Barebones for those of you trying to decode NOAA GOES satellites.  Oddly enough I couldn’t find a data sheet or manual for it.  And its a bit of a head scratcher if it is your first go-round with such items.  So I’m here to make it easy.

Their webpage merely says this which gives you the info you need to hook it up:

Each module allows for 3 different power options, but you should only power with one option at any given time! The recommended power input through the SMA output port (for bias-tee capable SDRs like the NESDR SMArTee XTR) is 3V-5V DC.

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GOES satellites

Above you working silently are Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES).  They are operated by NOAA and are essentially weather satellites.

Now here’s the current configuration above.  Seeing as how I live on the East Coast of the US I aim at GOES-16 or GOES East.   Getting the signal is a bit of a challenge and requires some special hardware.

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RTL-SDR Fun

One of my favorite hobbies of course is radio.  I own a few.

I think the most interesting “radios” are RTL-SDR devices.  The RTL stands for Realtek (which is the chipset) and SDR stands for Software Defined Radio.

They only cost a few bucks for a “generic” one and there are more sensitive and selective ones that cost bigger bucks.

Essentially if it is a radio signal of some kind, with a $20 USB Software Defined Radio you can listen to or decode a multitude of radio traffic/chatter.  In fact it seems darn near illegal, and sometimes it is.  I have other blog pages with this information but I’m just going to re-hash what I’ve been up to this week.

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Syctale-C For Decoding Inmarsat STD-C EGC Messages

Everybody over at the Facebook SDRPlay message board is having fun decoding L band ACARS and STD-C messages.  One of the SDRPlay guys, Mr Mike Ladd, put together an excellent guide on using the RSP devices to decode L band traffic.  It has invigorated that Facebook community somewhat and I’m excited to see everyone trying it out and posting their results/questions.   Mike posts excellent tutorials and videos and if you fancy yourself an SDR enthusiast or hobbyist you owe it to yourself to check out his videos.

ACARS AERO messages are for, you guessed it, Aircraft,  and Enhanced Group Call (EGC) messages are Maritime notices and warnings.   These messages are from Inmarsat Satellites and the one I use specifically is Inmarsat 4-F3.  Clicking on the image will show you that its geosynchronous orbit covers North and South America.

Inmarsat (click to enlarge)

Inmarsat 4-F3 is located at 97.6 West.  Strongly recommended to get an app called Dish Align to locate the satellite.

So to pull this off you need:

  • An RTL-SDR device capable of delivering Bias T voltage to the antenna.  For today I used an SDRPlay RSPDuo.  There are certainly cheaper devices out there though.
  • An L band antenna such as this one or an old Othernet L Band Patch antenna from the old version 2 hardware.  I had one of the old L Band Patch antennas laying around already. You might be able to find one on eBay or of course make your own..
  • A Windows laptop with a little bit of OOMPH
  • Software such as SDRUno if you are using an SDRPlay device or SDR# if you may be using an Airspy device.
  • Virtual Audio Cable to get the audio from your SDR software into Syctale-C software.
  • And of course Syctale-C software

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Chuwi HI10 Air Windows Tablet Review For RTL-SDR

Batten down the hatches and store food.   The end is near.  I bought a Windows Device and I am going to review it.

Let’s be clear.  I F’n-ing hate Windows.  I have been using Linux and Mac way before it was cool to do so.  Windows is an abomination.  That being said I have long since owned a Vinyl Sign Cutting machine.  The very best software for it runs on Windows.  Also recently I bought an SDRPlay RSPDuo and the only real software to exploit it properly is called SDRUno and it is Windows only.

This is a review for a Chuwi HI10 Air Tablet .  I bought it EXCLUSIVELY for using RTL-SDR radios on.  If you are looking for a review of how well this tablet does ANYTHING besides RTL-SDR, then by golly you are in the wrong place.

I travel a lot and I love listening to radio signals and like it or not I just need to carry around a Windows device.

Sure I can run Windows in a Virtual environment but I’m kind of king of the low power devices (read:  CHEAP) and the things I try to do require more power and speed than what I typically carry around.

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How Do You Like To Listen To Shortwave?

Probably not a lot of us shortwave junkies out there.  That being said there are several ways to listen.

  • Portable shortwave
  • Tabletop shortwave with external antenna
  • RTL-SDR
  • Internet based SDR

Probably missing something but those are the ways I can do it at Castle Hagensieker.  And while I own many, many portable shortwave radios……………

I have pretty much two preferred ways to listen.

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Cheap Chinese Magnetic Loop Antenna (MegaLoop aka MAGALoop) MLA-30

UPDATE:  I’ve been catching a little heat for this review.  I have gotten several emails explaining very succinctly to me why this antenna is not very good and I’ve been slammed for promoting a Chinese knock off.  However, know this……….It is INEXPENSIVE.  Like China or hate China, because this loop is a fraction of the price of other loops for sale it is going to get some attention.  Also, I’m sorry, I don’t care what the specs say…………The antenna receives pretty good.  Is it the end all, be all…………….no.  God no.   But it’s not that bad and it doesn’t cost $300.

I live in an HOA which limits what kind of an antenna I can use for Short Wave Listening.  There are a few options of which one of the best is a Magnetic Loop antenna.   It has a relatively small profile and can even be kept below fence level and still perform wonderfully.

One of the problems with a Magnetic Loop is that they are fairly expensive.  Like in the $250 or higher range.  Most old timers or skilled antenna builders will tell you there is $60 worth of parts in the $250 antenna and that you should just hunker down, get smart, and build one yourself.

Enter the Chinese made MLA-30 MegaLoop and damnit this is my blog so it’ll from here on out be known as the MAGALoop.  That’s what I’m calling it.

 

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Using the SDRPlay RSPDuo – A few weeks in

I’ve had my SDRPlay RSPDuo for a few weeks now and I’m prepared to talk about it a little bit.

First let me preface this by saying I also own an RSP1 and an RSP2 and while I think they are both fine radios I’ve always had a tiny beef with the SDRPlay devices.

Beef #1 is that to really pack a punch with an RSP device you need SDRUno which is a Windows program.   With every fiber of my being I despise Windows.  Don’t like it don’t trust it.

And while you most certainly can use an SDRPlay on Linux weird shit happens.  Let me also preface this by saying that if you install the Non-Windows Workflow as they say in that Lego movie………..”Everything is Awesome”.  Yeah, well, I’m not that guy.  I have every SDR known to God and Man and I build the gr-osmosdr stuff by hand to try to use other devices such as PlutoSDR and LimeMiniSDR.

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RSPDuo Running over Network on RSP_TCP

I just bought an RSPDuo from SDRPlay and I wanted to see if I could hook it up so I could access it from the network just like I do my Airspy HF+ on SpyServer.

So you dig around on Google and you find out that sure enough you can however it wasn’t as easy as it appeared. Believe me, it never is.  I am running my RSPDuo from an Ubuntu 18.04 laptop.  In SDRPlay’s defense they have a Raspberry Pi image on their downloads page and this stuff may already be configured. I won’t swear to that though. Laptops have a hell of a lot more OOMPH than a Raspberry Pi though and I just like messing around in Linux.

Lets get started:

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What’s Left To Do On ShortWave

Ahhhh Shortwave radio.  If you’re my age you probably remember it fondly in the 70’s and 80’s. Every home probably had at least one World Band radio.  If you are my kids age you may not even know it exists or if you do ………… what exactly it is.

Everyone knows what AM radio is.  What most don’t know is AM Radio is actually called Medium Wave (MW).  The frequencies BELOW AM are called LONGWAVE.  So it stands to reason the frequencies on the other side of AM are called “SHORTWAVE”.

Shortwave kind of fell out of popularity mostly due to the big old orange ball in the sky firing solar storms at us.  The sun works in cycles and sometimes shortwave listening is really really good and sometimes it is really really pointless to try.

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