SDR / GNU Radio Tutorials

It doesn’t take too long once you get your hands on an SDR to realise that there’s a lot to learn if you want to move beyond being a consumer of programs and applications others produce. This is where I find myself at the moment, and it is a bit like being back at school but fun.

Here’s a few resources I’ve been reading, watching or have bookmarked in no particular order relating to SDR and GNU Radio. As a beginner in this I can’t fully vouch for their quality but they seem okay!

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Filtering a Capture with GNU Radio

So after the previous post where I was sending out a rather large sample, I had a look in to filtering things a bit. The first step in the doorbell example should have been to sample as low as possible to limit it to the minimum sample size.

In order to test filtering with GNU Radio, I captured a sample with a short transmission at +100kHz followed by another shortly later at +300kHz using the basic capture flow in the previous post and used this with a waterfall to observe the output. The goal was to filter out the +300kHz signal.

Searching for “filter” turned up a low pass filter which sounded about right, with a bit of trial and error with the “Transition Width” which didn’t work when set to 0 or a low figure we can see the output when the filter is set to 500kHz.

Low Pass Filter Flow500khz low pass filterChanging the cut off value to 150kHz shows the following where we can see the +300kHz signal has been filtered out.150khz filterWe can still see the band where it transmits and the signal outside the filter but I assume this is due to the strength of the signal in the original capture.

Trying this out adding the HackRF as a sink and listening with another receiver confirms that only the +100kHz signal is being transmitted with nothing heard on the +300kHz frequency.

I’d still like to figure out what the transition actually is, if anything at all is being transmitted outside the filter frequency and if there’s a way to have it filter in one direction from the centre frequency instead of both although for my purposes the filter above is enough.

Since writing this I’ve messed about with some of the other filters that also work well. I did run in to a problem with some GNU Radio 3.6 blocks being used instead of the 3.7 ones. For instance when trying to use the bandpass filter I received this error:

cannot import name firdes

Removing /usr/local/share/gnuradio/grc/blocks/band_pass_filter.xml did the trick here to get it working and let the 3.7 filter_band_pass_filter.xml be used. I did this for a couple of the blocks before removing all of the older dated ones, I’ve not seen any problems but a total clean up might be in order prior to a reinstall.

HackRF DoorBell Ringer Part 2 – Replay

Following on from capturing the signal in the previous post was to try a simple replay of the signal to see if it would set the doorbell off as expected.

For this we started off using hackrf_transfer, this receives data in to a file then transmits again from the file, perfect for a quick signal replay.

My first attempt at this was to simply set hackrf_transfer to record the signal centred on the frequency of interest 433.780Mhz.

Firstly capturing to a file:

hackrf_transfer -r 433780000.raw -f 433780000

Then transmitting from the file:

hackrf_transfer -t 433780000.raw -f 433780000 -x 20

Initially I hadn’t included a transmit gain option with -x so wasn’t seeing a signal when transmitting, this could have been reduced a bit.

Now the approach taken above did not work as expected. On looking at the signal transmitted by using an RTL-SDR device to see what was going on we can see a problem.

Hackrf_transfer no offset

The image above shows that capturing and transmitting on the same frequency has resulted in in a continuous signal being sent, the red line, through the middle of our real signal. This signal is on the exact same frequency the doorbell receiver is expecting the real signals and unsurprisingly the AM receiver doesn’t like a strong signal interfering so it didn’t ring.

The simple answer here is to offset the record and transmit frequency a bit, 20khz here, so the DC spike that exists in the middle of our recording isn’t where we’re wanting to transmit.

hackrf_transfer -r 433760000.raw -f 433760000
hackrf_transfer -t 433760000.raw -f 433760000 -x 20

As can be seen in the image below, by shifting the capture and transmit frequency 100khz away, the carrier of the spike is no longer on top of our signal and bing bong the doorbell rings!

hackrf_transfer offset

I tried to replay the signal with GNU Radio gnuradio-companion using an offset frequency and it also worked as expected and rang the doorbell first try.

Simple flow to capture to file.

Simple flow to capture to file.

The GNU Radio waterfall from the  capture

The GNU Radio waterfall from the
capture showing the signal (just)

Simple flow to transmit from file.

Simple flow to transmit from file.

The only problem with this is approach is it’s transmitting the full captured sample which could land us transmitting something unintentionally captured. So while it works and is quick, a better approach would include some filtering, I have a look at this in the next post here.

I’d also like to emulate the signal in GNU Radio as retransmitting isn’t that great but that’s a bit of learning away yet.

I uploaded a short video to youtube demonstrating the doorbell ringing.