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Software Defined Radio - A forum for general discussion of software defined radio (SDR) receiver equipment.

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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 01-27-2018, 6:11 PM
   
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Dallas, TX 75201
Posts: 2
Default What's possible with this setup? How/when to improve?

I've just started exploring radio, and I'm totally captivated by how it works and what you can do with it. Unfortunately, I'm so new, I don't know if my setup is working well - maybe I'm doing something stupid like using the wrong antenna and don't know it - so I'm asking for some general guidance. If someone can recommend a book / blog, that's great; otherwise, I don't mind digging in and learning on my own - just need some pointers to get me started.

I've just recently purchased some things for this setup:
  • Downtown Dallas (across from the American Airline center if that means anything to you) - nearby airports are DAL and DFW.
  • Bottom floor of a mid-rise apartment complex with other units surrounding me
  • Shielded USB 2.0 HS cable with a ton of little RF chokes (the Internet has crazy suggestions)
  • SDRPlay RSP2.
  • SMA to BNC adapter from SDR to antenna coax.
  • A cable from my signal generator with multiple turns around one large choke (BNC connectors - not sure what kind of coax).
  • This BNC to PL-259 adapter: [url]http://a.co/eEupFec[url].
  • This tripod antenna: http://a.co/1LQ0ged.
  • Tin foil covering entire SDR and immediate connectors.
  • Debian Stretch and Windows 10.
  • Tools: rtl-sdr.com v3 dongle, 2 telescoping antennas, 2 wifi antennas, coax adapters + tee, entry-level oscilloscope, signal generator, power supplies, and other basic electronics gear.

Since everyone always responds to these kind of questions with "it depends what you're interested in", here are my interests:
  • General exploration of all frequency bands (on a budget obviously).
  • Understanding the EM spectrum around me - coming from my computer, my apartment's wiring/lighting/appliances, my neighbors, local stations, air traffic, industrial data links, DX / farther out.
  • Reverse engineering / hacking / SIGINT - stuff like what Michael Ossmann does and crazy stories like The Thing.
  • Custom software / hardware - protocols, electrical / RF engineering, etc. GNU Radio is really cool - I spent a lot of time getting this working on Debian Stretch (Linux).

Here's some specific questions I have, but if you have something I should know, please share:
  • What's possible with my setup? I doubt I'll be able to receive satellite images or transmissions from the other side of the world, but what should I expect to pick up?
  • What are some obvious things I should check to ensure my setup is working correctly?
  • Are there tests I can perform to measure performance empirically? I can build some basic things like a Wheatstone bridge for measuring antenna SWR with my oscilloscope and signal generator, but I'm hesitant to do any transmissions, since I don't have a radio license or confidence I won't do something illegal/annoying.
  • How do I identify and measure interference sources? I feel like RFI from USB and DC power are my biggest problems, but I don't know how to confirm.
  • At what point should I stop focusing on reducing interference? e.g. what's inevitable, and what is irrelevant?
  • After minimizing interference, are what upgrades would be good value? I don't want to spend $$$ for marginal improvements, and I know my environment will make a lot of things less practical.
  • How to get connected - most popular forums like this, news sources, blogs, etc.
  • Software suggestions? Cool new things? Something that really caught your interest lately?

Thanks for reading!
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 01-27-2018, 6:20 PM
   
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Dallas, TX 75201
Posts: 2
Default

In case it helps others, I found this useful: https://ham.stackexchange.com/q/7416/11080
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  #3 (permalink)  
Old 01-27-2018, 6:38 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: WTVLCA01DS0
Posts: 9,255
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What I can tell you is that it is all about the antenna. Hook one up to a good antenna and you can do quite a bit.
Hook it up to a crappy antenna, and you'll get crappy resorts.

Based on your location (bottom floor of an apartment building), you'd be better off using a laptop from somewhere else. Take it out away from all the noise and have fun. Inside your apartment, you're likely to pick up a lot of local noise.
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Old 01-27-2018, 8:25 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Grandview, TX
Posts: 400
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mmckenna is 100% correct and normally is! I will say HOWDY neighbor. I am originally from Dallas, but living about 50 miles south of DFW now.

You say that you have a SDRPlay 2. Have you joined the SDRPlay FaceBook Group? There are hundreds of members there and VERY helpful. Just open FaceBook and search for "SDRPlay" and it will open to their page.

Your query is really too encompassing. One cannot "know all" immediately. Electronics and radio is a learning experience, and takes time. Regretfully, once you learn one aspect; it has evolved into something new. You NEVER learn it all.

I am 84 and from the vacuum tube generation. It is extremely hard for me keep up with today's electronics and vernacular.

Good luck to you. There is TONS of material on the Internet. As many have said, "GOOGLE is your friend."
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Old 01-27-2018, 8:39 PM
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
Posts: 4,652
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You seem to be very concerned about noise, but you haven't actually indicated that you have a noise problem. Noise is very frequency-dependent - on what bands are you fighting noise?

If you want to hear more stuff, get your antenna outdoors and higher up. If you can't do that, there is no alternate magic bullet.
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