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Re: Survey regarding GNU radio usage in amateur radio

From: Daniel Estévez
Subject: Re: Survey regarding GNU radio usage in amateur radio
Date: Sat, 14 Nov 2020 18:20:41 +0100
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El 14/11/20 a las 9:11, Adrian Musceac escribió:

I am doing a survey regarding the topic of GNU radio usage in amateur radio

Hi Adrian,

My answers below.

1. Are you actively using GNU radio in amateur radio activities?


2. If yes, how are you using GNU radio, please provide some details.

My main use of GNU Radio for "typical" Amateur radio activities is probably my QO-100 groundstation. There GNU Radio plays a central point. The station is based on a LimeSDR Mini that runs full duplex from a Beaglebone black SBC. The station is controlled through GNU Radio running on a laptop computer, with the Beaglebone only acting as a sort of LimeSDR <-> Ethernet bridge (custom C software, not GNU Radio).

GNU Radio is used on receive, for plumbing, to connect the full 600ksps RX to Linrad, which I use for listening SSB and viewing the specturm, and to connect a real 48ksps slice to fligi, WSJT-X, etc. It is also used as a full SSB transmitter, and to put the 48ksps audio out from fldigi, WSJT-X, etc into the 600ksps TX spectrum.

I also use GNU Radio for Amateur satellite with gr-satellites. I guess this still qualifies as Amateur radio. For example, I've used it for digital voice QSOs through LilacSat-1.

The rest of my GNU Radio activities are on the verge of "typical" Amateur radio. I guess one could count them as Amateur radio, since they are amateur and they use radio, but for the purposes of your survey probably they're best counted as "radio experimentation".

3. Do you think GNU radio and applications using it solve some specific problem
for amateur operators which is not solved by other free software DSP
libraries, or, on the contrary, do you think it should implement a solution
that already exists elsewhere?

I think that one specific feature that GNU Radio gives to Amateur operators is the ability to build something custom out of a set of blocks that they can use as a black box. This is not so different from building a microwave transceiver out of modules and there are people who like this approach.

4. What would you consider strong and weak points in GNU radio when related to
amateur radio usage?

The strong points would be my answer to the previous question and the fact that it is very flexible, so it is possible to start doing experimentation and new development rather easily.

On the other hand, this is also sort of its weak point, since GNU Radio is a very general framework and not particularly intended for typical Amateur usage. For example, if you want to use HF digital modes, you're probably better off using fldigi than trying to replicate or rebuild all of that into GNU Radio. However, if you're experimenting with building new digital mode...

I think one important point is that GNU Radio is a framework rather than a tool. Most of the tools we use for Amateur radio are not based on GNU Radio but rather on custom DSP. The only very popular tool using GNU Radio that I can think of (and forgive me if I'm missing someone's great project) is GQRX. However, GQRX doesn't expose very much the fact that it's GNU Radio under the hood, so the ability to quickly modify GNU Radio based designs is somehow lost with GQRX.

If there was an Amateur radio tool that was based on GNU Radio but also exposed its inner workings in a flexible/transparent manner, then it should be possible to start using that tool (in order not to reinvent the wheel) and modify/extend it as needed.

5. Is your local amateur radio community generally aware of the existence of
GNU radio?

I think yes, but they usually see it as something too difficult or not very practical for what they do.

6. If you have any authored / co-authored published papers, talk slides,
seminars etc. related to the topic of this survey, can you provide a short
description and a link if available?

Yes. The lists of articles and talks are here:


I'm not sure I can highlight any that are specially relevant for your survey. Reviewing them, it seems to me that the more "typical Amateur radio" ones use GNU Radio very lightly or not at all, while the ones that have important usage of GNU Radio could be considered "experimental radio".

7. Are you involved in research projects which use amateur radio crowd-sourced
data, and if so, can you provide a short description of the project?


8. Do you have any suggestions for raising general amateur radio public
awareness of free software in general and specifically GNU radio?

Regarding free software in general, I think we're doing pretty well. A large fraction of the popular software for Amateur radio is open source. I think we still need to continue promoting free software and open standards on our bands on the basis that this is the only way to satisfy the self-training and educational intentions of Amateur radio without any licensing barriers.

Regarding GNU Radio, I'm not particularly sure what to do, but I think we should realize where it shines and promote that: it allows people to learn how things work, build their own, etc. (again, self-training and education). We should also realize where it is perhaps not the best tool: trying to build yet another GQRX replacement, for instance. So we shouldn't expect, try or insist that people try to use GNU Radio for replacing existing tools in Amateur radio. The other tools are probably better suited for the task.



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