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Friday, 24 November 2017

Using HackRF One and GNU Radio on Windows 10


So finally I got my very own HackRF One!

While I was waiting for the order to arrive, I started to learn about how to use the HackRF One and all instructions I found online pointed to one basic fact: you need to have Linux to fully use the HackRF One.

The problem is that I currently have only Windows 10 installed on my computers, because most programs I use, are only available for this operating system.

For the casual Linux use, I droped having a dedicated Linux partition and instead started to use Ubuntu inside a virtual machine. Using the free VirtualBox has been a great experience, as it works really well.

However, I discovered that for HackRF One, the bandwidth of the virtual USB port is simply not enough. While you can in fact use the HackRF inside a virtual Linux box, performance is not ideal. It does work, but don't expect to TX/RX the full 20MHz.

I tried my luck with Pentoo, a Linux distribution on DVD that has everything radio related pre-installed. It does work, but again there was a slight annoyance: I am used to my SSD, which is really fast and I use three monitors to have plenty of desktop space. With Pengoo, everything loads from DVD and that is really slow! Also, all three monitors show the same content with a lower resolution that would be possible.

And so I ended up giving GNU Radio for Windows a shot and guess what: it works actually amazingly well!

How to set it up? Look here:

And yes, you get FULL HackRF One support, commands like "hackrf_transfer" are available and work.

I did a first test with my new HackRF One and this image shows the capture of a few seconds of just 2MHz:

Soon I ended up recording 20MHz bandwidth (basically the whole FM band in one go) and then transmitted it at 160MHz centre frequency... Why? Because I can!

The spectrum analyzer shows how it looks like...

...and my Uniden Bearcat UBC9000XLT could perfectly receive the relayed FM stations! Simply amazing!

Now I need to learn more about GNU Radio - it is an amazing piece of software!

So here is a prrof of concept that you can use the HackRF One with Windows, as opposed to basically all quick start instructions I have found.


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