I recently decided to try out one of the new SDR DVB-T TV tuner USB devices. They are sold all around the world as USB TV tuners. The one i use is based on the RTL2832 chipset and can be found all over EBAY for as little as $15.
Got one already?
You get a remote, a not so good aerial, a CDROM and the dongle itself.
Someone wrote a great driver for the RTL2832 that allows data in and out of the chip. We should all be grateful that the open source community is such a giving bunch.
There is a regulator, the RTL2832 chipset, a crystal, an IR receiver, an amplifier and antenna connector on the board by the looks of it.
Installing the driver for these chips is the first step. DON’T install the software they come with unless all you want is TV, which i certainly couldn’t get with the supplied aerial. Instead the SDR drivers for this chipset are essential if you want to listen in amateur radio style.
The zadig drivers are the way to go… http://sourceforge.net/projects/libwdi/files/zadig/
Now there are a number of ways to listen to the USB dongle now that the drivers have successfully defined it as a receiver.
You can use SDR# sharp, or SDR-radio.com version 2. Or probably a few others, if so you will probably need to copy some libraries into it’s operating directory.
Don’t miss this step and this is most often the reason you wont be able to find the receiver in the list of devices available to the decoding software.
I chose SDR-radio.com v2, so i could stream it also on a server and connect to it from anywhere.
A close up of the RTL 2832 chip which is the key to it all.
What will you get with the supplied antenna?? in short not much. You might get your local radio stations if your lucky. I experimented with various antennas, including the home antennas on HF and VHF, it works really well if given a good antenna.
It was using the antennas that i liked to use with my regular rigs, so if i wanted to leave it on permanently for others to connect to, it would need its own antenna. I decided to give its own broadband antenna in the form of a discone.
Discones are very broadband. That is, they can pick up a wide frequency range, unlike say my 2m/70cm band VHF vertical that i use for VHF operations (100-160Mhz)+(450-500Mhz), Or my end fed horizontal dipole that i use for HF operations from 21-50Mhz. This is the Diamond D130J super, good for 25 to 1300Mhz.
I placed the discone up in the air on a disused pole. I used some good quality low loss RG213 ($3/m) to run it inside to the shack. An MCX male to SO239 female pigtail completed the connection from the receiver to the antenna.
Running some server software…
What can you hear?
AM, FM, Upper and Lower Sideband, Morse, Digital and much much more.
Amateur radio transmissions. Like your local 2m repeater, there’s always one nearby if you find the frequency, Narrow or wide FM.
Aircraft. Including air traffic control.
Usually the local services, like taxis, breakdown and service vehicles, the police, fire and ambulance etc.
Telemetry and signalling. Local utilities, government etc.
Things like 433mhz and 315mhz garage door openers, car remotes, alarms, and lots of other crazy devices.
Cordless phones, mobiles and so on all give out there own special signalling.
The 1090mhz aircraft transponder signalling that gives height,speed, aircraft callsign info for example. Can be decoded with many pieces for software for Example: http://rtl1090.web99.de/
Possibly satellite traffic.
You will hear some very strange things out there, and experience, or trial and error will let you successfully decode a lot of it.
I have been successfully porting the audio out through virtual cable and listening in with standard programs like FLDIGI etc to decode digital signals.
Oh boy. What can’t this do for $15!
click here for version 2 of the sdr-radio.com software
Next on the list is making the sdr available on a webpage widget via free software such as WebSDR.