My Foray Into SDR

I’m pretty easily distracted by shiny things. That’s one reason that things get stalled in my project queue. If an opportunity or project of interest comes along, I’ll indulge that and devote some time to it.

I’ve been interested in SDR (Software Defined Radio) for a while. I studied signal processing at university, and I once wrote a prototype FSK modem as a work project. I’ve been following developments, hanging around in the FlexRadio booth at hamfests, and thinking about getting involved “some day”, when I could get in at a reasonable cost (meaning under $100).

I’ve also been wishing for a small QRP (low power) tranceiver that I could use for CW and PSK-31 while traveling. I travel light, so it needs to be small. I have a KX-1 that works for CW, and that size is about right.

A few weeks ago I met Bob McGwier, N4HY on Facebook, because he noticed that we had some interesting mutual friends. Bob has done some really cool things, and is an expert on SDR, so I asked him whether he could recommend a small, cheap introductory SDR rig that was a transceiver. He was very helpful and recommended the Softrock RX/TX Ensemble, designed by Tony Parks, KB9YIG. Tony has brought low-cost SDR kits to a lot of people, enabling a lot of amateurs to get into SDR experimentation. There is a really excellent set of builder information for the kit by WB5RVZ, which helps make the kit accessible to more experimenters.

I dropped an email to Tony, and got an immediate response. So I was already having an amazing week, having connected with two rock stars of the SDR world. Tony told me he had an order in prep, and if I sent him payment via paypal, he’d have a kit for me. I did, and a few days later, the kit arrived.

Now, as of today, I already have the rig running as a receiver, but I’m stopping to document some of how I got here, especially since a lot of the documentation and software applications available are for Windows, and I used Linux.

I’m going to break this up into a few posts for readability. Next, some information about the Softrock RXTX Ensemble.

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About Steve

I'm Steve Conklin, AI4QR I'm employed by Canonical, Inc as a Linux Kernel Engineer. Interests include Linux, open source software and hardware, electronics and music, and amateur radio.
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