Trunk Tracking with HackRF

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awooga

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Hi there,

TLDR; I have a HackRF and want to decode P25 and trunk track like a hardware scanner - what are my setup options vis a vis OS X , Windows or Linux

New to the forum here so please be gentle : )

So I got a HackRF One at Christmas as I've loved fooling about with SDR dongles for ADSB tracking and as a radio scanner.

Now I'm really into using the HackRF as a scanner with Trunk Tracking. I'm hoping someone might be able to give me advice on what combo of software to use.

I want to be able to decode P25 -- essential. Previously I managed to do this on OS X using GQRX (my favorite scanner software) combined with DSD+ using Wineskin to get DSD+ working on the Mac.

This works really well and decodes all the local police and fire -- but I have to manually find the frequency.

I've tried but failed so far to get SDR# and DSD+ working together on a windows PC. (Im better with macs)

I would love to be able to do trunk tracking with OS X and GQRX and DSD+ -- but I don't know how to get unitrunker running on OS X (although I have seen it done in a YouTube vid).

Is there any other software option for trunk tracking OTHER than UniTrunker? Anything for OS X?

The next question is if I have to use UniTrunker and SDR# can anyone point me in the direction of info to get them playing together nicely with the HackRF?

I can get the HackRF recognized by SDR# but I can not find any option to use Hack RF in UniTrunker -- I'm not even sure I need it to recognize the HackRF but there are lots of receiver / signal / control options usually with hardware models.

Hope this isn't too vague.

Much appreciated

Awooga
 

br0adband

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You didn't say if the system(s) you wish to monitor are P25 Phase I or Phase II or a mix of each - obviously DSD+ can decode P25 Phase I but not Phase II comms, Unitrunker can decode both P25 Phase I and Phase II control channels so actually tracking the trunks is easy with that tool.

Your only option to monitor P25 Phase I and Phase II if necessary on a computer is OP25 which can and does work with just one single "cheap USB TV tuner" aka RTL-based USB stick. If you have one of those and it seems you do then that would be my recommendation but OP25 is Linux-based - I seriously doubt it would compile and operate under OSX/macOS but you never really know (unless of course KA1RBI comes in and says "Nope, ain't happening..."). He's one of the most knowledgeable people about OP25 around here, I think he's involved with the actual development on some levels as well.

Anyway, you might be able to get a virtual machine running on your Mac and get Ubuntu 14.04.05 installed (the recommended platform for OP25 at this time) and then use the following instructions to get OP25 up and running as well:

http://forums.radioreference.com/software-defined-radio/301459-virtualbox-project-run-op25-windows-7-a-16.html#post2654021

If you follow those instructions you could be up and running in 20-30 minutes, give or take a few more to get the configuration files (.tsv) created with the necessary system info.

Again, OP25 provides for P25 Phase I and Phase II conventional or trunked system monitoring with just one single RTL-based USB stick, just one and only one needed and it does so incredibly well. Seems I keep recommending OP25 a lot lately but it's fantastic for what it does, has outstanding audio quality for Phase I and Phase II, and of course it does LSM reception the way it's meant to be done and better than any hardware scanner on the market today.

There is support for the HackRF in the OP25 code as well from what I just gathered on doing some research but as I'm not a hackRF owner I can't speak for how to handle all that, I would guess the same instructions should work just fine and OP25 when executed will find the HackRF and make use of it. Theoretically since the HackRF offers up to 20 MHz of effective real-time bandwidth that means you could literally record an entire P25 system in real-time meaning every single voice channel could be logged/recorded and then just played back at a later time using something like what Rachel-By-The-Bay did a few years ago with great success:

Super Trunking Scanner

The possibilities are endless these days. ;)

While it's entirely possible of course to get this done on Windows using Unitrunker and DSD+ and do it fairly well - and you can even do this using FMP nowadays which is included with DSD+ but I'd recommend you becoming part of the DSD+ "Fast Lane" program if you're that serious - I've started leaning towards using OP25 myself for P25 Phase I and Phase II duties. I have a spare laptop that's dedicated to that purpose alone and I just leave it running for monitoring our LVMPD 700 MHz P25 Phase II system here in the Las Vegas area and with a few clicks I can switch over to monitoring the other huge system which is S.N.A.C.C. and P25 Phase I.

I cannot guarantee that you'll have complete success with OP25 in a virtual machine on a Mac but it's possible. More than likely if you have any issues they'll be related to the audio subsystem which is very picky about latency and what happens is that you end up getting very choppy audio - that's not the fault of the reception itself or OP25, it's just that the hardware virtualization causes latency and the audio being created by the OP25 voice decoder ends up sounding choppy and broken by the time the Ubuntu sound subsystem gets ahold of it and then adding another layer to pass that on to the OSX/macOS sound subsystem means it just sounds bad by the time it hits the speakers/headphones. :(

Only one way to find out and that's by getting it done. :)

As far as actual hardware support for the HackRF by Unitrunker, I'm sure Rick (Unitrunker himself) will chime in if and when he sees this post. The fact that HackRF is a more expensive product equals less people using it compared to the RTL-based sticks and because of that low count user base he may simply not be interested in providing the hardware support necessary.

I'll bet if you get OP25 working you'll find that it can get the task done very well, all with just one RTL stick leaving your HackRF for more interesting things. :D
 

awooga

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Wow - thanks for the quick and detailed reply.

I guess I wasnt quite clear in the question.

Ive tried and failed a few times with OP25 and Ubuntu but will give that another try. Does that trunk track though?

I'm most interested in monitoring - (if that means listening live)

I'm in Los Angeles so most of the frequencies I'm interested in are Phase I -- Phase II would be cool but not essential.

So to listen live with phase 1 and trunk tracking is the immediate objective. And any advice on the simplest way to do that would be much appreciated


Thank you !!
 

awooga

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Should add I've got no problem with computers -- I can dual boot into Linux on my MacBook Pro and I also have a windows box (which I'd rather use really) I haven't modified the windows machine as I'm not great with windows but I should be able to either turn that into a dual boot or a sole linux machine
 

slicerwizard

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So to listen live with phase 1 and trunk tracking is the immediate objective. And any advice on the simplest way to do that would be much appreciated
Simplest way is Windows / DSD+ (fast lane version) plus a couple of cheap dongles.

Next would be Windows / Unitrunker / VB Cable / DSD+ 1.101 (the free version) plus a dongle or two.
 

br0adband

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In the past OP25 was a bit more difficult to get operational, required compiling it and GNURadio and that sometimes caused people issues (not to mention potentially needing a few hours to get the task done), especially those that aren't familiar with Linux itself nor doing things on the command line and the precision needed even with just copying and pasting the necessary commands in a terminal window. Nowadays things are much simpler and you can literally have it installed and running in 20-30 minutes and I'm serious about that. The information and specific steps/instructions that I linked to above (the specific post made by RR member Dark-Sky) is something that I've used myself more than 20 times on a variety of hardware for myself and some others recently and it hasn't failed yet and the longest it took was ~27 minutes on an older Core Duo (not even a Core 2 Duo) machine with a slow 5400 rpm hard drive.

Anyway, what slicerwizard said above is pretty accurate overall - the Fast Lane (meaning the donation version) of DSD+ is newer and more frequently updated with more options and features as well as having more capabilities with the version of FMP that comes with it so that could be a potential for you but it does require Windows. The second method he mentioned is a bit more complex and still based on Windows but can get the job done as well in a more complicated manner.

I'll stand by my recommendation to give OP25 another chance and see what happens, using those instructions and steps in that post linked above by Dark-Sky, in a virtual machine on OSX/macOS - VirtualBox is free on that platform and could be a workable solution for you using just the one RTL stick as I mentioned above. Parallels and VMware Fusion are also options but those are commercial software products but they do have trial periods if you want to see how things might work out and go from there.

Since you said you can dual boot (not that you do it currently) that could prove to be a viable option as well for using OP25 but realize obviously if you're in Linux you won't have much access to OSX/macOS - but then again, it is possible to run OSX/macOS in a VM nowadays too. :D
Always more than one way to get something done. ;)
 

SCPD

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I would love to be able to do trunk tracking with OS X and GQRX and DSD+ -- but I don't know how to get unitrunker running on OS X (although I have seen it done in a YouTube vid).
Neither do I. Wine (lack of) support for WinUSB prevents the program from running.

The next question is if I have to use UniTrunker and SDR# can anyone point me in the direction of info to get them playing together nicely with the HackRF?
On Windows, use SDR# to validate your HackRF driver configuration and to calibrate the device. The reference clock is well outside the 1 ppm.

Version 2 of Unitrunker supports the HackRF. It hasn't been officially released yet. If you don't want to mess with experimental software, you may want to wait a bit - but just beware that it is coming. Anyone with a HackRF that wants to test version 2 can sign up on to the unitrunker Google group.
 

br0adband

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While I don't have a HackRF and more than likely never will, that's pretty awesome that you're going to support it, Rick, I'm sure owners of that hardware will appreciate it. ;)
 

awooga

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Although the dongles are cheap as chips and seem to be the easiest way -- I'd really ike to use the HackRF.

OP25 seems like my best option -- I might take a windows machine and install the recommended Ubuntu on it.

Other option is to continue playing with SDR# and HackRF with Unitrunker -- this would save me having to wipe the windows machine.

I don't like performance and the quirks that come from VMs so it seems like option one or two.

To be honest I need to get more clued up about the virtual audio cables from SDR# --> DSD+ --> Unitrunker

(is that even the correct routing? )

Dissapointing Ive got further with the Mac with everything apart from following the trunks. I sent a message to the guy who had GQRX, DSD+ and Unitrunker running on OSX -- he used a shell script above my head but said he may do a video to demonstrate e used a shell script
 

deboe

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Not 100% sure it works on OSX but I run trunk-recorder that runs on top of GNURadio in lunux.
Now all that software does is record the transmissions to wav file you need a second program to display/play them. I use my Trunk-Player which is what powers my streaming website https://scanoc.com/scan..

These are FAR from friendly retail software programs they need some tweaking, but there are people out there will help you out if you want to try it,
 

awooga

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So I've gone down the OP25 route with a fresh full install on a Windows laptop (wiped) everything seemed to install fine - I can bring up scope.py etc. New issue now is how the hell I configure it as Ubuntu doesn't seem to see my audio -- under sound preferences it says it's outputting to 'dummy audio' 😕

So may have to find some drivers for that before I can hear anything. Out of interest is everything run from scope.py? Does that mean the install of Gnu and OP25 is good at least?

Thanks again folks
 

awooga

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So Im scared of breaking the OP25 install if I try to install the old Ubuntu Surface patches -- but without audio not got much other choice. All the patches are for stuff like the cover keyboard I couldn't care less about - likewise touch screen. I'd like to just get the surface 3 audio drivers for 14.04 and know how to configure them with whatever virtual cables OP25 has in store. Can anyone point my top a OP25 for dummies page
 

br0adband

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For OP25 support I'd suggest you repost those questions in the "main" OP25 thread here:

http://forums.radioreference.com/software-defined-radio/301459-virtualbox-project-run-op25-windows-7-a.html

That way if you encounter an issue that someone else might also have at some point the solutions and support info are there in that one thread for everyone to make use of instead of crossposting the info all over the place.

While OP25 is a solution as I point out pretty regularly whenever people want a method - in fact the only method - to monitor P25 Phase I and Phase II systems (conventional or trunked) - to use a computer and some SDR solution to do it (meaning not with a traditional physical scanner), it's not a walk in the park bake a cake kind of easy and even in spite of the new "revised" and easier installation method that Dark-Sky laid out in that post in the other thread, it will take some effort, time, and patience to get it working completely on most any platform hardware.

But people are doing it so, that's a plus. ;)
 
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