Another newby

manross

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So I need some help from all of you experienced users. I want to be able to decode Pocsag, Flex and all the other data sources. I have more than enough scanners to listen to local stuff and milair. I'll primarily use it for decoding stuff.
So my question is, for just starting out, what hardware will work good enough to give me a taste of sdr part of this hobby. Oh and its just about have to be Android based. The one computer I own is Windows 10 laptop and is on its last legs. Its delegated to run a wall mounted weather station. I was looking at the Airspy hardware. Way more than I wanted to spend. I was excited to see the $99 mini, but its not Android compatible. Soooo of all of the experienced sdr users out there, what would you buy for an Android based hardware. I could go a little more than a $100, but not by much.
I would like to thank you all for any help you may share. Its much appreciated.
 

manross

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Yes I went through that list. I recognized only about three of them. I've been doing searches and of all the ones I've seen, I'm about ready to buy between two of them. RTL-SDR Blog R820T2 RTL2832U 1PPM TCXO SMA Software Defined Radio with Dipole Antenna Kit or one of many Nooelec NESDR products.They are quite inexpensive. I can't afford Airspy or a HackRF product. Maybe down the road if I find I like this part of the hobby, I'll get something of higher quality. Thanks for your help.
 

morfis

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Nooelec or rtl-sdr blog cheap devices will work fine with android apps....but it's the apps that will likely be your stumbling block rather than hardware. There was a fork of libairspy for android but at the time it was of little interest to me as there were no 'interesting' apps that justified using one of my R2s rather than one of my cheaper devices.

As for going to 100 dollars...really isn't much point but definitely no point as an entry to exploring the apps available...20 dollars should be ample budget for the rtl hardware ;)

Listening to normal voice comms, TV, analogue braodcast radio, DAB and the like are all covered well enough by droid apps but data far less so.
Battery life also becomes a potential limiting factor
 

manross

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Nooelec or rtl-sdr blog cheap devices will work fine with android apps....but it's the apps that will likely be your stumbling block rather than hardware. There was a fork of libairspy for android but at the time it was of little interest to me as there were no 'interesting' apps that justified using one of my R2s rather than one of my cheaper devices.

As for going to 100 dollars...really isn't much point but definitely no point as an entry to exploring the apps available...20 dollars should be ample budget for the rtl hardware ;)

Listening to normal voice comms, TV, analogue braodcast radio, DAB and the like are all covered well enough by droid apps but data far less so.
Battery life also becomes a potential limiting factor
I guess this is where I'm at. Get my feet wet and see if I like it. As far as battery problems with Android. They'll suck down a battery in no time. That is unless you have a compatible tablet/phone that supports OTG and power at the same time. I have a Samsung Galaxy A8 tablet that does the job. So let me ask you one more question. Ok that might be a lie. I don't have any reservations in getting a RTL-SDR Blog V3. But what of a Nooelec NESDR. If you were going to go with the Nooelec NESDR, which model would you go with? And why? Yep I lied. That was two questions right from the start. Seriously if you would share why, I'd appreciate it. Thanks for your time and help.
 

wowologist

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If all your going to do with an SDR is that, you might actually check out a decommissioned mini-pc...with xmas coming around since they are generally around 49$ and I imagine they will be going for even lower. That way you actually have a Win10 licensed computer albeit not a powerhouse bit extremely useful if all your going to be doing is general SDR stuff like you listed.

I run 2 of these;(ViewSonic Mini PC Computer AMD E-350 @ 1.6GHz 2GB 320GB VOT133 Nettop VS14165 | eBay) they are powered by power bricks, tiny and work extremely well. I have a slightly different version (they come up randomly you just need to do some searching) and Win10 keys are $29.95. Used flat screen 22" monitors are literally being given (15$) away at second hand stores. I think you will have a much better experience then the piecemeal android setups that are currently available...just my 2c.
 

morfis

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I'd agree with wowologist that a mini pc (I picked up a bunch of reasonable spec NUCs that were from those shopping centre photobooth things for a handful of peanuts) ...but as that wasn't really the thrust of the original I'll stick to that.

With that said, I'm not sure that I can give you a really good answer about the nooelec choices. I have lots of variants of the little rascals, mostly interchangeable but in some rare instances for specific reasons.
Some things to consider though:
E4000 chip ones have a slightly different frequency range than the more common R820T2 type and perform better at some freqs and not at all at others which may be of interest
Bias-T or not....I'd go for one that does have it for flexability (though it's certainly not essential). I prefer it to be software switchable if included but many are permanently on
Size/shape - might seem odd but if you want a compact setup and to add more than one rtl to your pi it will matter!

Hopefully still of use to you even if not exactly what you wanted.
 

manross

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Well crap!! I read your posts a few hours too late. I went ahead and bought a Nooelec NESDR. I honestly looked at some of the mini pc's and dismissed them due to cost and they appeared to be weak in their abilities. Apparently I didn't shop where you both did. It seems a lot of posts on the subject I have read, tell how resource extensive sdr's are. I don't believe all is lost. The Nooelec NESDR is still able to work on a pc. If nothing else it seems a lot sdr'ers out there are running multiple sdr's. Even if what I got didn't work on a pc I still can run it on an Android tablet (Samsung Galaxy A8) and have another sdr on the mini pc. I'll have to search far and wide to get the deals both of you got. You know I have a couple more questions. What would be the minimum hardware on the mini pc or any pc for that matter? Guys I really do appreciate all of your information and expertise. I'm usually a quick learner. So hopefully the jump start you two have given me, will allow me to be able to help someone also. Take care and stay healthy.
 

morfis

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Your nooelec will work on pc/mac/droid/pi so no need to worry about that side of things.

It's the software that is resource intensive rather than the rtl device as such.
Minimum spec is really a function of what you want the software to do and display. You could certainly use a lower spec than the examples linked by wowologist but I wouldn't look lower except when building something for some specific purpose rather than the exploration that you are looking at.

Generalisations again - graphical display in the software will use resources...high speed wide spectrum and waterfall displays are useful but they are hungry. Many of the windows software solutions allow you to turn display of those things off when they aren't actually needed. Some software uses old-fashioned ASCII symbol display to reduce the overhead (though in some cases I think it's also a slight geekness of the programmer!)
Intense audio processing or high bitrate audio processing need resourses
Need to run multiple pieces of software / multiple rtls - then you'll be moving up in the resource requirements
If you go down the PC route then allow yourself some room for growth rather than buy something really limited (you certainly don't need bleeding edge computer performance or evn close to that)
 

manross

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Actually I've been tossing the pc route around. I've got my Windows laptop running my weather wall display and that's all it does. I'm sitting here in my recliner thinking that I really don't need that weather wall. 😊 Soooo I'm going to run my tablet for right now. I can always repurpose my laptop to do another rtl-sdr. From what I've read EVERY where that the road to multiple sdr's is a short drive. I'm beginning to understand how people get caught up in this part of the hobby. I've got a distinct feeling that I'll be running multiple sdr's in a short amount of time. 😊 I'm in with both feet.
 

2e0wes

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welcome to the club, if you get a sdr with bias t voltage output, you can buy a cheap patch antenna (modified gps antenna) and get aircraft messages with jaero, and marine with tekmanoid or scytale-c.
 

manross

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welcome to the club, if you get a sdr with bias t voltage output, you can buy a cheap patch antenna (modified gps antenna) and get aircraft messages with jaero, and marine with tekmanoid or scytale-c.
Newby here. The names you used are they software or dongles? Maybe both.
 

morfis

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data decoder software
not expensive - Tekmanoid
free - scytalec / scytalec / wiki / Home — Bitbucket

free - http://jontio.zapto.org/hda1/jaero.html - not loading for me but see jontio/JAERO

Numerous goontube videos about them no doubt .

the rtl-sdr.com blog is probably one of the simplest sources of info and ideas about what you can do with rtl devices. They have a 'shop' but mostly they are an aggregator of other sources (a bit like the swling page that often gets linked in RR posts). They sell a patch antenna suitable for the above... as do sdrkits.....as does nooelec...or make your own air gap patch from a couple of bits of scrap metal (outernet made quite a nice one which they ended up selling off cheap when they changed freq...their design is easy enough to home build as it's a small airgap but with a director element too.
 

morfis

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I'll also mention this as it's got a very active author, a huge base of active users and covers a lot of modes not just one
free and also expanded reasonable priced one, Multipsk - index
(gui takes some getting used to as it's not very modern...or intuitive but there are good guides and it's fine once you are over that little hurdle)
(very active groups io community - multipsk groups.io Group)

Other softwares are available but there is a huge jump in price from the hobby level stuff to the so-called 'professional' (read - "we sell to governments so add a few zeros...you can buy it too but you still get the zeros")
 

2e0wes

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I personally use a sdrplay rspdx, but you could use a nooelec smartee, if your on a budget, make sure it's the smartee and not the smart as this doesn't have the built in bias t voltage. As for programme's, I use jaero for Acas messages, which is free, and tekmanoid what was a paid for, but I believe scytale c is also free and does pretty much the same thing as tekmanoid. Take a look on YouTube for frugal radio, he has a good video showing how easy it is to capture satellite signals with a patch antenna as does tech minds, also on YouTube.
 
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manross

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Hey guys thanks for all of the great info. With all of the things that's been listed, I'm going to need another pandemic to keep me inside for a few months to understand it all. I'll look into all of the stuff eventually!!!!
I've been meaning to ask this. All of you that have multiple sdr's, do you stick to one brand? Do you mix it up or does it not matter either way. Once I get my antenna pole set up, I'll be getting at least one more to start off with. I can see easily why you all run multiple stl-sdr's.
 

morfis

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I've been meaning to ask this. All of you that have multiple sdr's, do you stick to one brand? Do you mix it up or does it not matter either way.
It doesn't matter.

It's really down to what you want to do and what you want to spend to do it - always there are options that will fit most budgets.
 
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