RTL-SDR’s are COOL. The list of things you can do with them is almost too long to list here. But know that it ranges from “listening to the radio” to hardcore scientific atmospheric experiments, and everything in between. Hackers can open your car door or garage door with them and private detectives can record the radio signals from your tire pressure monitors to prove you were somewhere you shouldn’t have been. Remember the day when they used to have to sit for hours in a car and take your picture? No more.
I recommend to anyone that will listen that they should have an RTL-SDR in their emergency kit. When I went through Hurricane Florence in 2018 in New Bern NC all local communications went down INCLUDING the NOAA Weather Radio Station. How’s that for a kick in the pants? I watched TV anchors walk off the set due to flooding in their studios. But the police and firemen and Linemen were still out there and I was listening as they restored power to my area. Also having an RTL-SDR during a violent Hurricane KEPT ME ENTERTAINED and kept my mind off of things. AM radio was my best way to stay informed but be warned that some of the SDR’s below need up converters (more hardware) to listen to AM radio or some geek skills to enable the device to listen to frequencies below 24 MHz.
Anyway…….how do you select what SDR you buy? There are lots of them out there and I’ll hit some quick pros and cons on selecting them. If you go to Amazon and search, this is usually the first one that pops up. The RTL-SDR Blog Version 3.
It may be one of the better general purpose receivers and is relatively low cost. Let’s do some pros and cons. There pros and cons are for FIRST TIME USERS AND BUYERS. Not for old pros.
I live in Hurricane country and it is hurricane season. Everyone tells you to have a radio in your storm preparation kit, but they don’t specify WHAT radio but sometimes they will say “Weather” radio. A decent weather radio will set you back $30 or so. But then that doesn’t get you the local news. So an AM/FM/Weather radio that is decent will set you back even more. There are cheaper ones than I just linked, but not cheaper by much.
During Hurricane Florence in New Bern, NC the local TV stations bugged out and the NOAA weather station was damaged and stopped transmitting.
Power was out and there was widespread flooding. And an almost across the board loss of LOCAL communications. At this point you are left with the Ham Radio folks. Also most people probably aren’t aware the AM radio signals can be heard for HUNDREDS OF MILES at night. So if your town loses all communications, the next one over probably didn’t. Or that big city 200 miles away inland didn’t.
Below is the AM band at 1AM from my location in Eastern NC. 660 AM is WFAN in New York and it is coming in crystal clear. It is routine to listen to Louisville, Clevland, New York, Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Canada, etc. You can see how many signals there are of good strength.
AM Radio at 1 AM Eastern North Carolina
Anyway, even supposing you have a multi-band radio that doesn’t help you when most everything goes off the air. Where are you going to get your information?
Using an SDR device over your local network is pretty handy. If you are like me your antenna connection for your SDR is in one place. If you want to play “radio” you have to do it in that one place formerly known as “The Ham Shack”. No more. The Ham Shack can be anywhere in the house now.
Using an SDR over the network is nothing new but the various methods have pros and cons. Essentially I want to be able to roll through 0 KHz to 1800 MHz from anywhere in the house. In my previous blog I used an Airspy HF+ Discovery to stream to a Mac computer. That worked perfectly but the Airspy HF+ does HF (plus a little more). It doesn’t go 0-1800.
But my SDRPlay devices (RSPdx, RSP1a, and RSPDuo) do. SDRPlay has some network Server software called RSP_TCP and let’s just call a duck, a duck shall we? It’s crap. It has limitations and it seems to be an abandoned project. Go to their Github page and nothing has been done to the code for a couple of years.
But the folks at SDRPlay came up with an awesome solution to remote control a couple of years ago (which is probably why they bailed on the RSP_TCP project).
It is called VirtualHere. I’ll try to make the explanation of that it is as simple as possible.
It’s been a hot minute since I played with my RTL-SDR’s. I have an Airspy Discovery HF+ which is an amazing piece of hardware, however it plays best with Windows software, specifically SDRSharp (SDR#).
The trouble is I spend most of my life on a Mac computer. On the same download page I linked above for SDRSharp is program called SpyServer. You can set up your Airspy HF+ Discovery to serve up radio over your network.
The trouble with that is the best software client to do that is SDR# which is Windows only. So in order to make it work on Mac here is what we will do.
This is about Windows drivers.
I bought a cheap laptop from Walmart, an Acer A514-54-501Z. While going through the system and deleting all the crappy extra programs they put in these things I noticed that many of the system drivers had a date of 2021 or earlier. Only 1 or 2 drivers even had a date of 2022 and for a fact I know one was causing the computer to Blue Screen (wifi driver) which certainly prompted an update from Acer. However, if I go to the Acer Support page I’m given a driver to download for my MediaTek Wifi module however if you go to MediaTek OEM drivers it isn’t even close to the latest driver.
Here’s what happens. Let’s say you make laptops and you make some real cheap for the Walmart and Target crowd. You make a profit, but not a big one. You are NOT going to keep a crack team of software engineers on staff to maintain this laptop in an up to date, pristine status. You find a driver that works, is stable and it STICKS. They don’t update them UNLESS THEY HAVE TO, and by have to I mean that they receive tons of complaints or crash data.
Or if their high end computer has the same component and gets updated, maybe they’ll push it down to the bottom tier. Like it or not, that is just the way it is.
I ran a program called Driver Booster 9 and it found TWENTY FIVE drivers that needed upgrading, including that MediaTek Wifi driver I mentioned earlier.
I was having an issue where only a 3 of my networked computers were showing in the Windows Network Neighborhood (or at least they used to call it Network Neighborhood).
All computers on the network were visible from all my Mac and Linux computers and running software such as LanScan showed everything proudly announcing itself on the network. So the problem pretty clearly was with Windows 11.
This is a blog where I wish I specified a FIX to the problem but the truth is, I’m not sure what fixed the problem, but this blog may not be a total waste to anyone else with this problem.
First of all, I’m not new to the geek stuff, but I am newly returned to Windows. I bought an Acer Aspire 5 laptop specifically to run a program called Vectric VCarve Desktop for my CNC machine. Also my CNC machine firmware can only be updated from a Windows computer. Also since I design my SVG files on a Mac and store them on a couple of servers I HAVE TO HAVE NETWORK ACCESS WITH MY WINDOWS LAPTOP WHILE I’M IN MY WORKSHOP TRYING TO CNC SOMETHING.
Let’s dig in.
There are not tons of places that can say they have been in business over 100 years, much less 125 years.
Not sure why I’m sneaking this in a post about pocket knives but there is a Hot Dog joint in a nearby town to me (Bill’s Hot Dogs in Washington, NC) that has been open since 1928. Okay, not quite 100 years but you’re still doing something right if you can sell the same hot dogs and super secret chili sauce for almost 100 years.
And so it goes with the Swiss Army knife. They are doing something right. It is so engrained in our culture that the very words “Swiss Army Knife” are synonymous with anything multi-purpose. Actually the company stretches back until about 1884 but the Swiss Officer’s and Sports knife was patented in 1897. To commemorate this anniversary a replica knife was released .
And here is what I like about it. Not much has really changed with the pocket knife. Oh sure, metallurgy has come a long way, and the tools are a bit more refined and specialized but essentially it remains nearly the same. The can opener was an odd duck compared to the openers of today, but make no mistake, you can still open a can with it.
Let’s discuss the 1897 Replica a bit more in detail.
I love pocket knives and multi-tools. My favorites are Swiss Army knives and Leatherman Multi-Tools. The best multi-tool on the planet pound for pound may be the Leatherman Wave +. The Leatherman Surge is my second runner up but it is freaking HUGE.
Sometimes you need to go SMALL though. Something that won’t pull your pants down if it is in your pocket or give you one Popeye arm. Enter the Leatherman Style PS. It is definitely keychain sized but its claim to fame is that it is travel friendly. Translation: There is no knife blade on it.
The P stands for Pliers, and the S stands for Scissors. But no knife blade.
While I’ve never travelled with this I’d be willing to bet the fine men and women of the TSA would still confiscate this, knife blade or not, because, it is what they do. It LOOKS like a knife.