Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Software Defined Retail

Your radio no longer needs a dial.  Things have progressed to a point where you can build a radio on a chip the size of a pencil point and configure the software that controls it at will. The Idea is called SDR (Software Defined Radio) and I've written about before. [LINK] It's virtue is it's flexibility: Simply modifying programs can completely change its functionality. It's amazing that when I wrote about this in 2007 SDR was still somewhat  hypothetical.

An SDR is not some idealistic unobtanium. You can now buy SDRs at retail. In other words, this is already on eBay.  Below is a list of a few products I find notable. I'm going to count down as a Top 5 just so you are tempted to scroll. If you need to get canonical keeps a hefty list here and has one here. Prices range from $10 to over $4,000!

TOP 5!

5. BitsharkExpress RX - $4,300 [LINK]
This appears to be a good product but I've down-ranked it because the price is  astronomical. It supports a tuning range between 300 MHz and 4 GHz and acutlaly uses dual A-to-D converters in a elegant design. Also it is one of the few units which mounts directly on your PC bus as a PCIe card. Thsi eliminates the USB cable many units rely on.

4.  HPSDR Hermes Transceiver Card - $895 [LINK]
This open source project came pricey, but also capable of full duplex. It could receive from 10 kHz – 55 MHz but it's A-to-D converter was only 12 bit. Most other systems are already up to 14 or 16 bit.

3. AirSpy - $200.00  [LINK]
Airspy is an advanced open-source SDR that can receive from 24 MHz to 1.8 GHz. That's not everything but that's over 1700 MHz of fun.

2. HackRF Blue - $200.00  [LINK]
This is the low-cost version of the Hack RF. Great Scott were able to achieve a lower cost by better component sourcing. Supposedly the spec its the same but I doubt that a 30% reduction in cost has zero degradation on performance. But I'd love to have the opportunity to test that.  See below

1. HackRF One Kit - $330.00 [LINK]
I really want one of these. HackRF is capable of transmitting and receiving of radio signals from 1 MHz to 6 GHz. It's software is Opensource and runs on a on a Debian/Ubuntu distro. "sudo apt-get install"hackrf" anyone?  But seriously this wins best in class. Running in an OS I'm literate in is just gravy. More here.