What to do about SDR?

For quite a while now, I’ve been thinking about what I should do about software-defined radio (SDR). For one thing, I’d like to write about it here on KB6NU.Com. For another, I’d like to learn more about it – how it works, what’s available, etc.

I”ve decided that short of writing a book about the topic, I’m not going to try to write something comprehensive, but instead just little bits about SDR as I come across them. So, with that in mind, here’s some SDR stuff that I’ve come across recently.

  • DVB-T Mini DongleDVB-T Mini Digital TV USB Stick Dongle. Based on an exchange of e-mails on the AMRAD mailing list, I recently purchased one of these little dongles. Apparently, a bunch of AMRAD members purchased this unit at a recent hamfest, and they’ve all been having fun with them.Unfortunately, it looks like I purchased the wrong one. This design is not supported by the commonly available SDR software. The dongles that are supported use the Realtek RTL2832U chip, so look for that before purchasing.

    Coincidentally, one of the guys here in Ann Arbor, purchased a FunCube Pro dongle at Dayton and brought it down to the museum Saturday. It costs significantly more ($150), but it will tune 150 kHz to 1.9 GHz. It will be fun to compare the two.

  • SoftRock, Peaberry. A couple of months ago, I purchased a SoftRock Lite II kit from someone who hadn’t gotten around to building it and decided that he was probably never going to get around to it. Well, of course, I haven’t gotten around to building it yet, either, but I do hope to get to it sooner rather than later.I have since come across the Peaberry line of kits. The Peaberry SDR V2 kit looks interesting. For $150, you get a multi-band SDR transceiver.
  • RTL-SDR.Com. This blog covers a wide range of topics including how to receive all kinds of different transmissions with DVB-T dongles that use the RTL chips. One recent article compares SDR using the RTL dongles and the FunCube Pro dongle.

Comments

  1. Glad to see coverage of SDR here!

    I wrote up my first go at SDR for the Mac here:

    http://vielmetti.typepad.com/vacuum/2013/04/software-defined-radio-sdr-for-mac-os-x.html

    The details are in the comments!

  2. The Funcube Pro dongle is 150 EUROs — $200… Your friend may be in for a surprise when he gets his credit card bill.

    • Dan KB6NU says:

      Well, he bought it at Dayton, so I’m pretty sure the price he paid was in dollars. Maybe they were running a Dayton special.

  3. Jim Cluett says:

    Dan – I just ordered the DVB-T dongle like yours. I sure hope you tell me what to do with it! 73 Jim W1PID

  4. Dave New says:

    I’m thinking strongly of the Peaberry V2 kit. If they had had a stock of them at Dayton, I probably would have bought one on the spot. Now, I’m still thinking about the fact that it has a fair amount of SMD components, and I still have an SMD kit that I’ve not built, yet. Otherwise, it looks quite competent, but now the trouble is which four bands to build it for? I’d like 40/30/20/17 as what I figure are the most active QRP bands, but it doesn’t come in that combination. I do like the idea that it includes its own sound interface, so you can run RX/TX without needing an extra sound card for your PC.

    • Dan KB6NU says:

      I’m going to build the SoftRock kit first, then think about the Peaberry, I think. The SoftRock has some SMT components, and that will be good practice. Do you have any special tools for SMT work?

      • Dave, N8SBE says:

        Not really. I have a lighted magnifier that I use for close work these days, and some tiny tips for my Hakko-compatible Radio Shack temperature-controlled iron, and some pretty thin solder (60/40, though, rather than 63/37). At last year’s Buildathon at QRP ARCI’s Four Days in May, the passed out a stick (like a large round toothpick) and a rubber band, to use long nose pliers. Put the stick in the pliers, rap the rubber band around the pliers handle, and use it as a sort of tripod, with the tip of the stick holding down whatever SMD component you wish to solder. There was an SMD part or two in the kit that year, and it worked OK for the purpose, but I’m not sure of the utility of the method for a larger, more complicated kit.

        • Dan KB6NU says:

          Hmmm. That might work for the SoftRock. There are two SMT ICs and a handful of other SMT parts.

          I agree that it’s probably not going to be useful for the Peaberry. That thing is all SMT.

          • Dan,
            A drop of superglue where the SMD components are to go,then lay them in with tweezers. Let the superglue dry,and they’re ready to solder..

          • Dan KB6NU says:

            What if you have to replace the part, though?

          • If you need to replace the part,unsolder it and a knife under the edge will pop it loose. The factory uses a bake-dry glue. The machine puts a drop of glue where the component is to go,puts a solder paste drop on the pads,then places the part,and it goes through a heat treatment which dries the glue and melts the paste.
            I was an electronic tech for GM’s Delco div.,they built the radios,engine control computers and other electronics.And it’s amazing the changes electronics have gone through in 25 yrs.

  5. I’ve been using a cheap USB DVB-T dongle on and off and have been having great fun with it and HDSDR. I’m hoping to make better use of it for capturing NOAA APT WX images once I get some az/el control over my antennas to track the birds across the sky during their passes.

    You can pick simple USB DVB-T dongles up for tinkering around with fairly cheaply now days, I got mine on ebay for around £13 delivered.

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