Re-Thinking Software-Defined Radio

Published at 10:04 on 14 October 2015

After blowing two evenings trying to get SDR working, I’m beginning to think I was correct in basically writing the technology off as not worth the trouble some years ago. I fight with computers in my day job. I don’t want to do it as a hobby.

First, I use Macs. If you use a Mac, you’re really left out. The vast majority of SDR software supports Windows and Windows only. The few exceptions tend to run on Linux and not Macs.

Sure, I could boot Linux on my Mac, but it’s Linux. That means it was written by hard-core geeks for hard-core geeks, so documentation is incomplete (if available at all). To prove my point, I tried to create a bootable Linux flash drive last night, following all the instructions meticulously. It didn’t work; it failed to even appear as a boot device when the system came up. That means there’s probably some missing step in the by-geeks, for-geeks instructions that was left out because it’s transparently obvious… obvious to a hard-core Linux geek that is. Figuring out the answer to that puzzle could easily involve me blowing my free time on it for the next several weeks. No thanks. I want to geek around with radio, not Linux systems administrivia.

The few exceptions, i.e. SDR programs that run on the Mac natively, tend to involve Mac Ports. Which is (link) currently broken. Sigh.

That leaves running Windows, which probably means buying and setting up a whole new computer. If it comes to that, there goes any cost advantage of SDR; even a sub-$10 dongle like the one working its way to me from Singapore will have a total cost about twice that of the Alinco receiver I just purchased. It actually might come to ruunning Windows… eventually. Right now, there’s higher priorities for spending that sort of cash.

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