Hak5 1524 – Free Software + $20 USB Dongle = Software Defined Radio

Software Defined Radio the Snubsie way! Shannon discovers how much fun a $20 radio dongle and open source software can be. Plus, Darren meets with J0hnny Long at Shmoocon 2014 to learn about a rugged Pi based education system from Hackers for Charity.

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SDR (Software Defined Radio)
Today I’m going to be taking a look at SDR (software defined radio) and a Windows application that will let you receive data with a simple setup.

What is SDR? Software Defined Radio is a radio communication system that takes what you’d usually find in hardware and implements it in a software application on a PC. A PC would have to be equipped with a sound card, or analog-to-digital convertor, and some kind of RF front end. Signal processing is done via the processor. Airwaves are analog, and PC’s are digital, so this SDR Dongle is my RF Frontend that is converting the airwaves for my software to make sense of.

This can be used as an AM / FM radio, a police scanner, air traffic control listener, etc. You’re basically packet sniffing with radio! And you don’t need license bc it doesn’t transmit, it only receives. So tada! Now you have your own little SDR setup with less than $25 instead of a crazy hardware product that can only do AM and FM.

Setup your Software on Windows: Use SDR# (SDR SHARP). Download the Automated Install. Open the program. Choose your DVB-T SDR Dongle once it’s plugged into your PC, and play with the frequencies!!

This is pretty cool, but it’s only one of the many ways to check out software defined radio.


  • Mike Chartrand

    Hey Shannon welcome to the radio world ( non wifi, bluetooth…) To go along your SDR checkout
    RadioReference.com website tons of info on any radio related items hardware and software plus
    you can search for radio frequencies in your area, city, county, state by usage like police, fire, ems, news,HAM, taxi, security, businesses.. example Costco employees. Dont forget to check out marine band, FRS/GMRS lots of funny stuff there, Drive Thru staff funny there also, or baby monitors for “Hacking” listening in peoples homes, Air traffic….list goes on… Cheers from Canada.

  • Lissandro Danny

    WOW, I used to watch Hak5 from 2006 to 2010. 2006 I believe it was on the beginning, when Stage6 still existed and Youtube was rubbish with only LQ videos. I just watched the last episode. Darren and Shannon looks exactly the same as I remember. So good the show still ongoing, sadly I don’t have anymore time to even think about trying the hacking and DIY stuff you guys say/show/do in the show, but watching it today made me feel again as a 15-year-old boy with as much technolust as lust I once was. Thank you, guys, really. Just realised you guys have different shows now, that’s amazing! Congratulations!

    • Rook

      Confirmed, SDR# does not have DVB-T SDR as an option. It is currently set on “Other (sound card)” and I see radio frequencies pretty well but the sound that comes out of mine sounds like a squeaky bicycle.

      • Rook

        Think I got it. In the “details” under the show forget the “Use SDR# (SDR SHARP)” link. Click on the second link they have there labeled “Download the Automated Install” (it will take you to http://rtlsdr.org/softwarewindows). Then go to the section titled “automated installer”. Follow those instructions and that should do everything from a software perspective. BUT after that, start the software, select “RTL-SDR / USB”, select WFM, then hit the CONFIGURE button. In the configure option turn on “[x] Tuner AGC”. You should then be able to hear FM radio. Hope any of that helps someone.

  • Marian N. Montoya

    The term “software defined radio” was coined in 1995 by Stephen Blust, who published a request for information from Bell South Wireless at the first meeting of the Modular Multifunction Information Transfer Systems (MMITS) forum in 1996, organized by the USAF and DARPA around the commercialization of their SPEAKeasy II program. Mitola objected to Blust’s term, but finally accepted it as a pragmatic pathway towards the ideal software radio. Though the concept was first implemented with an IF ADC in the early 1990s, software-defined radios have their origins in the defense sector since the late 1970s in both the U.S. and Europe (for example, Walter Tuttlebee described a VLF radio that used an ADC and an 8085 microprocessor ).

  • Jose

    Hey Snubs, I just got my SDR kit yesterday and I’m having trouble setting it up on linux. I’m trying to run it on a Acer Aspire One D255E Netbook, running Lubuntu 32bit, 2gb of ram (max possible). Now I’m a total noob when it comes to linux, but I managed to get Monodevelop installed and did the version change in line one of the SDRSharp.sln file from 12.00 to 11.00 as I was told but then a bunch other errors came up now i’m stuck and lost in the forum space. Episode 1524, when your first introduced SDR shows you run it on windows not linux. Help from anyone would be well loved.
    Smiles from Maryland.

  • phil

    this srd is trash it lights up but no one is home the free software does not come with it and it is old and corrupt there ore no good programs to run it go to a much better quality sdr than this one at least it will work

  • phil

    this sdr is trash it lights up but no one is home the free software does not come with it and it is old and corrupt there ore no good programs to run it go to a much better quality sdr than this one at least it will work

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