Putting A Software Defined Radio On A Mac

A few months ago [Antti Palosaari] discovered cheap USB TV tuners could be used as a software-defined radio. Since then, we’ve seen these TV tuners receive signals from GPS satellites and even the signals between air traffic control and passenger aircraft. Like everything cool, Mac support for these drivers is slightly terrible so [hpux735] wrote his own Cocoa app to support these amazing dongles.

[hpux735]’s driver is a port of the osmocom driver, repackaged as a native Cocoa app so the terribly fickle libusb and other dependencies aren’t needed. All the code is up on GitHub, ready for you to start playing around with SDR.

As far as tutorials for those wading into the deep waters of software-defined radio, a number of how-to guides have popped up over the last month to get SDR noobs up and running quickly. Here’s a few of the best ones we’ve seen:

[braingram] put up an Instructable for Ubuntu users.

For people who have a Windows box lying around [balint] put up a getting started guide.

There’s a slightly more thorough Windows guide here.

Most of the development in the TV tuner SDR community is happening on the RTLSDR subreddit, and there’s more than enough info there to do just about anything with these TV tuner dongles. If you come up with a novel use for one of these dongles, send it in on the tip line.

12 thoughts on “Putting A Software Defined Radio On A Mac

  1. I am eager to work with this device. Unfortunately, the order I placed a couple months ago, still has not been fulfilled. DX had them listed as in stock and ready to ship when I placed my order but several days later changed the status to sold out. Have many of you gotten lucky and received your dongle yet? This thing is a wet dream worth waiting for!

    1. Initially I had my order through dx while they still had it in stock and after a week of no status update I decided to cancel it and try my luck through ebay. Got mine about a month after I ordered and works as advertised. This seller doesn’t have more but there’s many others, although I would be wary of scams…Check the rtlsdr subreddit for some links there, in particular http://www.reddit.com/r/RTLSDR/comments/rpq5w/list_of_online_sources_for_tuners_work_in/

    1. There’s no need for it, except for cross-platform compatibility. OSX gives you full user-land control of USB; Windows requires money to develop low level USB stuff, so libusb is a workaround.

  2. I have a possibly similar stick here, won’t work here in the UK as wrong standard but should be fine for hacking purposes.

    Another interesting note, using a TV tuner with its tuning diode connected to a ramp generator based on a 555 to extend the range of one of these sticks.

  3. I just started playing with rtl-sdr on linux, and I must say it’s awesome. gnuradio is insamely cool, if you are interested in DSP I highly recommend it and welcome all new mac users.

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