Christmas With RfCat

Having lost the RF remote controlling the power to the Christmas tree lights a couple of times I thought it would be a good time to try RfCat with the YARD stick one that has been sitting neglected since I bought it a while back. Nothing here that hasn’t been written up 101 times by others!

The RF controller has multiple buttons for switching the different mains switches on and off individually or all on/off at the same time. As these are only button presses I’ve just aimed to replay the transmissions not really caring about the content.

The signals are on off keyed and repeated when holding the button, looking at these in audacity was pretty much as described in earlier posts here and here. It’s been a while since I’ve done this sort of thing so was a decent refresher project.

Additionally this time around I’ve used inspectrum with the IQ output from GQRX which along with its cursor option makes getting the timings correct a lot easier.


Inspectrum with cursors enabled

Using the script as described in earlier posts with a wav file to make a guess gave the following output (not from the same button as in the screenshot):

./ -i ../allon.wav -c 1 -t 30
 The whole lot: 000000010101111110000001001001010101001010001010010101010010101010100100100101001010010100100100101001000100101001010100101001

After removing the initial zeros this matched up nearly perfectly with the inspectrum/audacity output. I added an additional 1 and 0 to the long on/off periods at the start to have it match better.

Now I needed to send this out using the RfCat with the above input. This was surprisingly easy to get working in Python with RfCat and worked the first time after following some online examples.

Firstly I needed to convert the stream to use with RfCat which gave:


Then to send this in RfCat:


The timing was taken from the inspectrum symbol period as pictured above, modulation and frequency self explanatory.

Comparing the original signal to the one sent by rfcat they are pretty much the same and the switches accept the signals as intended.


Original signal top, RfCat bottom

I wrapped this all up in a small python script containing all the on/off values and am now using it to turn the lights on and off with a cron job for the month.

Another way to receive the data and skip the iq/wav analysis full stop is just to use RfCat to receive the signal.

I did try this first and didn’t get too far before trying the above instead but it was easier after having done all of the above and having the timings correct and after reading a great post here which is a good guide to this sort of thing:

With the same RfCat settings as above we run d.RFlisten() and get the following:


RfCat button press output

There’s some obvious repeated data in the screen shot. Taking a few of the repeats out and converting to binary we end up with a string that matches the output from but for a slightly longer preamble but this doesn’t make a difference to the outcome when we retransmit the above, the switch switches as expected.

It is a lot quicker and less fiddly to just do all of the above with RfCat entirely but had I not worked through it from the method I knew already I’d have struggled to get it working as quickly. Next time with a little better understanding hopefully it will be easier.


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