Software-Defined Radio remotely using a Linux wall wart

Here’s a interesting idea; if the hardware seen above is dropped at a location, you can monitor radio signals remotely via the Internet. [MS3FGX] has been toying with the idea for a little while now. He wanted to use a DVB dongle with a portable Linux solution to offer Software-Defined Radio (SDR) capability without the need to actually be there.

The white box is a PWN Plug, a branded version of the SheevaPlug. The black dongle that plugs into it is a DVB tuner dongle. It’s meant to receive television signals over the radio, but recently the hardware has been used as a simple way to implement SDR. Combine the two (along with the antenna), stir in a network connection, and you’ve got a remote listening post. What can you listen to? Just about anything that’s within the dongle’s bandwidth range. [MS3FGX] mentions walkie-talkie traffic and pager signals, to name just two.

He even wrote an installation script that gets you up and running in no time.

18 thoughts on “Software-Defined Radio remotely using a Linux wall wart

  1. Can’t wait until the undocumented features of wifi cards get hacked and can receive out of bounds. Atheros cards currently have about 1GHz of range by changing a few numbers in the kernel source code, but it would be nice to have more…

    1. @dattaway2:
      May you give some details on the Atheros hack? It might be useful for operating it on the amateur radio bands…

  2. I followed the link from digifail to the pwnplug. That looks like an interesting device but the cheapest price is $195. Am I missing something?

    the SDR stuff is interesting though….

    1. Yea it is a bit expensive for what it is, maybe replace the ShivaPlug for a $50 craigslist laptop, nice setup though.

    2. I already had the Pwn Plug from other work I was doing, I certainly wouldn’t suggest anyone go out and buy one of them unless you actually had a use for the pentest setup they have going.

      You can just as easily get the SheevaPlug it’s based on, which go for ~$100.

      The hardware is a good choice for this kind of thing, it draws a maximum of 7 watts and has no moving parts.

  3. This is great! Wish it wasn’t so hard to learn gnuradio, Python, and everything that comes with writing SDR software.

  4. there’s no reason this couldn’t be done with one of the various new android/ARM dongles as well – I just picked up mk802 for USD73 shipped. when I get the free time I’d be happy to try, although I’m guessing someone will beat me to it…

  5. (oh, and that was for the 1gb ram version. 512mb is a few bucks less than that. also? raspberry pi, if you can actually get your hands on one.)

  6. I’ve done this with a Pandaboard and ghpsdr3-alex, using QTradio and aHPSDR on my phone/tablet to connect (mostly because I had issues running anything pyWxwidget based on the board, segfaults ahoy!).
    I didn’t realize that gnuradio could hit rtl_tcp though, I’d been trying to use the local interface blocks from osmocom. Might try using gqrx on another machine, and only the panda as a receiver.
    It would drop the CPU usage on the pandaboard a lot, as the dspserver compiled with armhf+neon keeps both cores at ~75% when in use.
    Using a sheevaplug for this is pretty brilliant. Keeps it out of the way, and plenty of power to run the rtlsdr stick.
    I have also noticed missing IQ frames, good to hear I’m not alone, and now I know why and how to fix it.

    Thanks, MS3FGX! Excellent write-up, hope to hear about more of your developments in this.

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