All Your SDR Software In A Handy Raspberry Pi Image

The SDR revolution has brought a bonanza of opportunities for experimentation to the radio enthusiast, but with it has come a sometimes-confusing array of software for which even installation can be a difficult prospect for an SDR novice. If you’re bamboozled by it all then help may be at hand courtesy of [Luigi Cruz], who has packaged a suite of ready-to-go popular SDR software in an OS image for the Raspberry Pi.

On board the Raspbian-based OS image are SDR Angel, Soapy Remote, GQRX, GNURadio, LimeUtil, and LimeVNA. In hardware terms the RTL-SDR is supported, along with the LimeSDR, PlutoSDR, Airspy, and Airspy HF. All are completely ready-to-go and even have desktop shortcuts, so if the CLI scares you then you can still dive in and play. More importantly it’s designed for use with SDR transmitters as well as receivers, so the barrier for full SDR operation for radio amateurs has become significantly lower too.

This year has seen the seven-year anniversary of the RTL-SDR hack that probably did most to kickstart the use of SDRs in our community. Our colleague [Tom Nardi] wrote a retrospective that’s worth a look for its overview of some SDR tricks that have evolved over that time. Meanwhile if you don’t mind restricting your outlook somewhat, it’s possible to turn the Raspberry Pi 3 into an SDR all without any extra hardware.

Commodore Tape Drive Emulator On A Raspberry Pi

We imagine most of the people reading Hackaday have an old Raspberry Pi or two laying around. It’s somewhat less likely you’ve still got an 8-bit Commodore in working condition, but we’d wager there’s more than a few in the audience that can count themselves among both groups. So why not introduce them?

[RhinoDevel] writes in to tell us about CBM Tape Pi , an open source Commodore tape drive emulator for Raspberry Pi that needs only a handful of passive components to get wired up. Even better, the project targets the older Pis that are more likely to be languishing around in the parts bin. In the video after the break, a Commodore PET can be seen happily loading content from the original Raspberry Pi with its quaint little composite video connector.

Without any special software on the Commodore itself, the project allows the user to load and save PRGs on the Pi’s SD card, as well as traverse directories. Don’t expect stellar I/O, as [RhinoDevel] notes that no fast loader is currently implemented. Of course if you’re enough of a devotee to still be poking around a VIC-20 or C64 this far into 21st century, then we imagine you’ve got enough patience to get by.

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Sleeper PlayStation Hides A Raspberry Pi 4

[Andreas Wilcox] wanted to get his brother a birthday gift that reflected their shared love for the early days of 3D gaming, but just handing him a second-hand original PlayStation lacked a certain style. So he decided to gut the classic system and replace its dated internals with a shiny new Raspberry Pi 4. But rather than taking the easy way out, he put in the time and effort to integrate the new hardware so seamlessly that the nearly 25 year old console still looks stock from the outside.

The fact that the front ports are functional and work with the original controllers really helps sell the stock look. [Andreas] found a USB to PlayStation controller adapter, liberated the PCB, and soldered it to the back of the system’s ports. Even the memory card slots got in on the action, thanks to female USB connectors installed where the original connector went. It was a tight fit, but the final result was well worth it.

We also love the GPIO-controlled cooling fan complete with a duct designed to blow across the notoriously toasty Pi, and check out that carefully designed holder for the power and reset buttons. This entire project is really a fantastic example of how 3D printed parts can give your projects a far cleaner and more professional look than the hacker’s old standby of hot glue; though of course it demands a considerable time investment.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a Raspberry Pi shoehorned into a classic video game console, but it’s absolutely one of the cleanest examples we’ve ever seen. Though if we lump Raspberry Pi portables into the running, the competition is considerably fiercer.

Hackaday Podcast 045: Raspberry Pi Bug, Rapidly Aging Vodka, Raining On The Cloud, And This Wasn’t A Supercon Episode

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams talk over the last three weeks full of hacks. Our first “back to normal” podcast after Supercon turns out to still have a lot of Supercon references in it. We discuss Raspberry Pi 4’s HDMI interfering with its WiFi, learn the differences between CoreXY/Delta/Cartesian printers, sip on Whiskey aged in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, and set up cloud printing that’s already scheduled for the chopping block. Along the way, you’ll hear hints of what happened at Supercon, from the definitive guide to designing LEDs for iron-clad performance to the projects people hauled along with them.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (71 MB)

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Not-Quite-So-Hot Stuff: A Thermal Exam On The Latest Raspberry Pi

When the Raspberry Pi 4 was first launched, one of its few perceived flaws was that it had a propensity to get extremely hot. It’s evidently something the Pi people take very seriously, so in the months since they have addressed the problem with a set of firmware updates. Now they’ve taken a look at the effect of the fixes in a piece on the Raspberry Pi web site, and it makes for an interesting comparison.

The headline figure is that all updates together remove about a watt of power from the load, a significant quantity for what is still a board that can run from a capable phone charger. Breaking down the separate parts of the updates is where the meat of this story lies though, as we see the individual effects of the various USB, memory, power management and clocking updates. In temperature terms they measure an on-load drop from 72.1 °C to 58.1 °C, which should be a significant improvement for any Pi 4 owner.

There is a debate to be had over in what role a computer such as a Pi should serve. As successive revisions become ever more desktop-like in their capabilities, do they run the risk of abandoning the simplicity of a cheap Linux box as a component that makes us come back for more? It’s a possibility, but one they have very well addressed by developing the Pi Zero. They have also successfully avoided the fate of the Arduino — inexorably tied to its ATmega powered original line despite newer releases. As we have frequently said when reviewing Raspberry Pi competitors, it’s the software support that sets them apart from the herd, something this power-draw story demonstrates admirably.

Raspberry Pi 4 HDMI Is Jamming Its Own WiFi

Making upgrades to a popular product line might sound like a good idea, but adding bigger/better/faster parts to an existing product can cause unforeseen problems. For example, dropping a more powerful engine in an existing car platform might seem to work at first until people start reporting that the increased torque is bending the frame. In the Raspberry Pi world, it seems that the “upgraded engine” in the Pi 4 is causing the WiFi to stop working under specific circumstances.

[Enrico Zini] noticed this issue and attempted to reproduce exactly what was causing the WiFi to drop out, and after testing various Pi 4 boards, power supplies, operating system version, and a plethora of other variables, the cause was isolated to the screen resolution. Apparently at the 2560×1440 setting using HDMI, the WiFi drops out. While you could think that an SoC might not be able to handle a high resolution, WiFi, and everything else this tiny computer has to do at once. But the actual cause seems to be a little more interesting than a simple system resources issue.

[Mike Walters] on a Twitter post about this issue probed around with a HackRF and discovered a radio frequency issue. It turns out that at this screen resolution, the Pi 4 emits some RF noise which is exactly in the range of WiFi channel 1. It seems that the Pi 4 is acting as a WiFi jammer on itself.

This story is pretty new, so hopefully the Raspberry Pi Foundation is aware of the issue and working on a correction. For now, though, it might be best to run a slightly lower resolution if you’re encountering this problem.

Your Raspberry Pi Cluster Is Not Like This One

Many readers will have had their first taste of experimentation with cluster computing through the medium of the Raspberry Pi. The diminutive Linux capable boards can easily be hooked up as a group via a network hub, and given the right software become a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. None of us will however have reached the heights of the Raspberry Pi cluster shown by Oracle at their Oracle OpenWorld conference, a mighty rack packing a cluster of no less than 1060 Pi 3 B+ boards. This machine is touted as a supercomputer and it’s worthy of the name, though perhaps it’s not in the same class as the elite in that field.

Getting that number of individual 3Bs into a human-sized rack is no easy feat, and they have gone for custom 3D-printed racks to hold the boards. PoE would have resulted in too much heat dissipation, so instead they use USB power from an array of large multi-way USB power supplies. A set of switches provide the networking, and a conventional server sits in the middle to provide storage and network booting.

It’s certainly a cool way to wow the crowds at a conference, but we’re unsure whether it delivers the best bang for your supercomputing buck or whether it’s more useful as a large room heater. Meanwhile you can take a look at a few more modest Pi clusters, with unusual operating systems, or slightly more adherence to convention.

Thanks [Frisco] for the tip.