USRP and LimeSDR Support – RadioConda on Windows

TLDR: To add support for USRP and LimeSDR to a RadioConda installation on Windows, download and run the appropriate installers.

The rest of this post will provide a step-by-step process for adding USRP and LimeSDR support to RadioConda on your Windows PC as well as building a quick flowgraph to test the installation.

This walkthrough assumes that you have installed RadioConda on your PC. If you need to do so, check out my previous post.

Installing USRP Support

Go to the RadioConda GitHub Page and find the hardware support section

Clicking the “UHD (setup)” link leads you down the page to the following:

Clicking the “from the Ettus site” link takes you to the Ettus support page:

We’ll be following the instructions shown there. Start by downloading the driver from the UHD wiki page link.

If using the Edge browser, your computer may try to block the download. Click on the downloads icon in your toolbar and direct your browser to keep the file. Then navigate to your Downloads folder (or wherever you saved the file) and extract the contents of the file.

Then open your Windows Device Manager by typing “device” into the start bar:

Make sure you don’t have your USRP hardware plugged in at this point. You may see a few devices listed in the category “Other Devices”:

When you plug in your USRP, you will see a new device appear in the “Other Devices” group, likely with the name Westbridge.

Right click on the new device and select “Update driver”

In the resulting window, select “Browse my computer for drivers”

Navigate to the location of the extracted files you downloaded from Ettus:

When asked if you would like to install the device software, click “Install.”

After a few moments, the driver installation will complete.

Return to your device manager, where the Westbridge entry should have been replaced by a USRP entry.

Testing the USRP Drivers

Bring up GNU Radio by typing GNU into the start bar or clicking the shortcut you’ve made

Create a flowgraph as follows:

  1. change existing samp_rate variable to “10e6”
  2. add a UHD: USRP Source with
    • RF Options -> Ch0 Center Freq (Hz): 98e6
    • RF Options -> Ch0 Gain Value: 40
    • RF Options -> Ch0 Antenna: RX2
  3. add a QT GUI Frequency Sink with
    • General -> Center Frequency (Hz): 98e6
  4. Connect the source output to the sink input
  5. Save the flowgraph

Attach your USRP to the PC via USB. After executing the flowgraph using the Play button in the toolbar, you should a live frequency plot several FM broadcast signals. The specific frequencies you observe will be different depending on the FM broadcasts in your area.

Installing LimeSDR Support

Although the RadioConda GitHub Page recommends using the Zadig software to install USB drivers, I had trouble getting this to work. Instead, I followed the instructions on the LimeSDR support page at MyriadRF. This directed me to the FTDI Driver Download page. Click the FTDI link scroll down to the Windows drivers. Select the “setup executable” and save it.

Double-click the saved installer and follow the dialog prompts.

Testing the LimeSDR Drivers

Bring up GNU Radio by typing GNU into the start bar or clicking the shortcut you’ve made

Create a flowgraph as follows:

  1. change existing samp_rate variable to “10e6”
  2. add a Soapy LimeSDR Source with
    • RF Options -> Bandwidth: 0
    • RF Options -> Center Freq (Hz): 98e6
  3. add a QT GUI Frequency Sink with
    • General -> Center Frequency (Hz): 98e6
  4. Connect the source output to the sink input
  5. Save the flowgraph

Attach your LimeSDR to the PC via USB. After executing the flowgraph using the Play button in the toolbar, you should a live frequency plot several FM broadcast signals. The specific frequencies you observe will be different depending on the FM broadcasts in your area.

RadioConda – Installing GNU Radio on Windows

TLDR: To install GNU Radio on Windows, just install RadioConda and the drivers for your SDR. Create a shortcut, double-click, and you’re running GNU Radio Companion! For hardware support, simply install the drivers for your platform.

The longer version of this post will provide a step-by-step process for using RadioConda to install GNU Radio on your Windows PC as well as building a quick flowgraph to test the installation. I’ll also show you how to enable support for the following hardware:

  • HackRF
  • PlutoSDR

In addition, I’ll introduce Python virtual environments in general, Conda more specifically, and Radioconda more specifically than that.

What are Virtual Environments?

These are configurations for your computer that include a specific version of Python as well as a number of applications, packages, and dependencies. What’s great is that none of this is installed on your machine itself! You can enter the virtual environment, execute applications, and then exit the virtual environment. Upon exiting, your operating system will return to the state it was in prior to entering the virtual environment.

What is Conda?

Conda is a powerful management tool for virtual environments. You can use it to create any number of Conda environments, and use very simple commands to install hundreds of packages.

What is Mamba?

Mamba is essentially an optimized, higher-performing version of Conda (stuff installs faster).

What is RadioConda?

Finally, we’ve arrived at the tool we’re going to use! RadioConda is based on Conda, but its default configuration includes a ton of SDR-specific packages, such as GNU Radio, RF apps, SDR hardware support, and many key out-of-tree modules. Installing it on your Windows, Linux, or Mac machine will give you an enormous amount of SDR software. And like any other Conda environment, you can enter and exit it at will, leaving your core operating system unaffected.

RadioConda Installation Process for Windows

Navigate to the RadioConda GitHub Page:


Download the Windows installer. If using Edge, you may be temporarily prevented from completing the download. If you click on the downloads button on the upper right, you may see this warning:

Click on the three dots to select “Keep”

And then confirm by selecting “Keep anyway”

Your download should then show as complete

Double-click the installer

Agree to the license

Choose the scope of the installation (“Just Me” is good for most users, unless you want multiple users to have access the software on your machine)

Select a location for the installed files (or just click “Install” to accept the default)

The install will take a few minutes. Click “Next” when it completes

Then click “Finish”

You can now access GNU Radio Companion from your start bar by typing “gnu”

It’s a good idea to click “Pin to taskbar” if you want easy access

Installing HackRF Support

Go back to the RadioConda GitHub Page and find the hardware support section

Clicking the “HackRF (setup)” link leads you down the page to the following:

Clicking the “Install the WinUSB driver with Zadig” link moves you further down the page to this:

Clicking the “Zadig” link takes you to this site, which hosts a general purpose USB driver for windows devices

Scrolling down a bit, you’ll find a download link for the most recent version of the driver. Note that the advertising on this site is… extensive… and that there are may be several other links appearing to be downloads. The “Zadig 2.9” link below is the one you want (although the version may have changed by the time you read this post)

Double-click the installer, and allow it to check for updates online

Then click “Install WCID Driver”

Installing PlutoSDR Support

Go back to the RadioConda GitHub Page and find the hardware support section

Click the “libiio (setup)” link, which leads you down the page to this

Click the link to download, then run the installer, accepting the license agreement

Confirm (or modify) the install location

Then confirm to begin installing

This brings you to an installer wizard, at which you click “Next”

Confirm install from Analog Devices

And Finish

Testing the Installation – HackRF

Bring up GNU Radio by typing GNU into the start bar or clicking the shortcut you’ve made

On the first attempt, I’ve seen a glitch where only a blank window appears. In that case, close the blank window and try again. You should then see the GNU Radio Companion interface.

Create a flowgraph as follows:

  1. change existing samp_rate variable to “10e6”
  2. add a Soapy HackRF Source with
    • RF Options -> Bandwidth: samp_rate
    • RF Options -> Center Freq (Hz): 98e6
  3. add a QT GUI Frequency Sink with
    • General -> Center Frequency (Hz): 98e6
  4. Connect the source output to the sink input
  5. Save the flowgraph

Attach your HackRF to the PC via USB. After executing the flowgraph using the Play button in the toolbar, you should a live frequency plot several FM broadcast signals. The specific frequencies you observe will be different depending on the FM broadcasts in your area.

Testing the Installation – PlutoSDR

Bring up GNU Radio by typing GNU into the start bar or clicking the shortcut you’ve made

On the first attempt, I’ve seen a glitch where only a blank window appears. In that case, close the blank window and try again. You should then see the GNU Radio Companion interface.

Create a flowgraph as follows:

  1. change existing samp_rate variable to “10e6”
  2. add a Soapy PLUTO Source with
    • RF Options -> Bandwidth: samp_rate
    • RF Options -> Center Freq (Hz): 98e6
  3. add a QT GUI Frequency Sink with
    • General -> Center Frequency (Hz): 98e6
  4. Connect the source output to the sink input
  5. Save the flowgraph

Attach your PlutoSDR to the PC via USB. After executing the flowgraph using the Play button in the toolbar, you should a live frequency plot several FM broadcast signals. The specific frequencies you observe will be different depending on the FM broadcasts in your area.

Arsenal Labs at Black Hat 2022

Hello Factoria Labs readers! As you may know, Black Hat USA happened earlier this month in Las Vegas. As well as teaching an in-person SDR class, I was also honored to present a hands-on project at the Arsenal Labs – we had a great turnout, as you can see from the picture.

Arsenal Labs
Black Hat 2022 – Arsenal Labs

My project was an end-to-end, RF reversal of a simple garage door protocol. Although the signal produced by the garage door remote was not terribly complicated, the project provided a full view of the reversing process, including:

  • scanning for the remote’s signal
  • capturing the signal to disk
  • tuning and demodulating to produce a digital baseband waveform
  • identifying the framing and encoding of the baseband waveform and then extracting the bits
  • building a simple transmitter to implement the reversed protocol
  • building a more complex transmitter to implement brute force attacks

If you caught my presentation and wanted to look at starter and solution projects, it’s all at:

https://github.com/paulgclark/garage_door

I’ve also included a PDF of the printed handout we had for Arsenal attendees.

If you’re curious, the garage door remote used in the lab was this model:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RSDQKM9

Thanks for reading!

Updated gnuradio Install Instructions

As some of you have noted, the installation instructions for gnuradio and HackRF contained in our Field Expedient SDR series no longer work. To remedy this I’ve created a set of installation scripts that automate nearly all of the steps required, updated for newer versions of gnuradio/uhd/osmosdr and supporting the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

The scripts install from specific releases and commits of the source code, so they should be much more stable than previous iterations of the instructions.

TLDR

On an Ubuntu 18.04 installation perform the following:

  1. Open a new terminal (Ctl+Alt+t) and type:
    sudo apt -y install git
    mkdir -p install
    cd install
    git clone https://github.com/paulgclark/grc-install
    cd grc-install/install_scripts
    sudo ./grc_from_source.sh

    (This will install both gnuradio and the UHD drivers. It will take between 0.5 to 1.5 hours.)
  2. Open a new terminal and type:
    cd install/grc-install/install_scripts
    ./hackrf_from_source.sh
    (This will install the hackrf tools and the osmocom blocks. It will take only a few minutes.)
  3. Open a third terminal and start gnuradio companion with:
    gnuradio-companion
  4. Depending on the hardware you have available, you can open the following flowgraphs inside gnuradio-companion to test your setup:
    ~/install/grc-install/grc/hackrf-test/fm_receiver_hardware.grc
    ~/install/grc-install/grc/uhd-test/fm_receiver_hardware.grc

Installing gnuradio 3.8

By default the gnuradio install script installs version 3.7.13.5, the latest release before 3.8. If you want to try out the new version, simply type:
sudo ./grc_from_source.sh 3.8

Note that the osmocom team hasn’t yet updated the blocks used for interfacing with the HackRF such that they work with version 3.8 of gnuradio. I’ve instead used Igor Freire‘s fork of their repository (actually, it’s his fork of Mickey Vänskä‘s fork of the osmocom repo). Thanks to both Igor and Mickey!

Installation Scheme

One of the big benefits of the PyBOMBS scheme we originally used in the book was the fact that it installs everything to a target directory under your home directory, rather than doing a global install to root-owned directories. The environment is then loaded with a simple call to a setup_env.sh script generated by the install process (which is automatically added to your ~/.bashrc).

This means if something goes wrong, you can just rm -r the target directory and delete a single line from your .bashrc file. You can then start over without worrying about the previous install polluting your environment.

I’ve preserved this scheme in the new scripts as well. By default the scripts will use the following directory for the target:
~/install/sdr

If you want to use a different target, simply run the script with the new target directory as the second argument. If installing 3.7 this would be:
sudo ./grc_from_source.sh 3.7 ~/install2

For 3.8, it would be
sudo ./grc_from_source.sh 3.8 ~/install2

This installation flow also allows you to easily keep multiple versions of gnuradio on disk. You simply install 3.7 to one target directory and 3.8 to another. You then enable the setup_env.sh file corresponding to the one you want to use at any given moment.

Conclusion

I’ve tested these scripts on numerous laptops and believe I’ve worked out all the issues with both Ettus and HackRF hardware. If you do have an issue, please let me know on GitHub or via email.

SDR Training in Seattle

Hello readers! Until now, our schedule has only allowed time for SDR training at customer sites or at conferences such as Black Hat and the Wild West Hackinfest. After many requests, we’re finally able to offer an open class, where individual students can sign up and learn the ins and outs of Software Defined Radio.

As always, these are small class sizes full of intensive, hands-on learning. They’ll be held in the greater Seattle area (the suburb of Kirkland to be specific) from the 5th to the 8th of November. First will be our Intro to SDR class, then our Intermediate Digital class. If there’s enough demand, we’ll add on our Reverse Engineering and Python+gnuradio classes (email us if you’re interested).

You can register here, and if you sign up on or before the 3rd of October, you’ll get a discounted rate.

If you have any questions about the classes, please contact me at paul<at>factorialabs.com.

See you there!

Learn SDR with us at Black Hat Vegas!

I believe it takes 4 days to learn the basics of software defined radio, even if you’ve never done a single radio-related thing in your life. Less than a week.

If you lay that solid foundation in SDR and gnuradio, you’ll be far more effective in your future endeavors, whether that’s:

  • scanning for and intercepting signals
  • reverse engineering transmissions
  • building your own programmable RF systems for exfiltration

Join us this August at Black Hat to get started with SDR. We have a two-day introductory class that’s perfect for beginners. You don’t need to know a thing, and you don’t need to bring a thing. You’ll use our laptops and SDR hardware. No pre-class installation homework, just show up and sit down. You’ll learn the basics of gnuradio, RF theory and SDR operation – which will enable you to build analog transmitters and receivers.

You can then move on to our Intermediate Digital SDR class, where we’ll work through all the stuff you need to build digital radios:

  • OOK, FSK, GFSK and PSK modulation
  • handling preambles, payload encodings and CRCs
  • clock synchronization!
  • and much more

If you’ve already spent some time with SDR and know the basics of gnuradio, you can jump straight to the intermediate class. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about this. We can also chat about our advanced classes in reverse engineering or gnuradio application development.

Hope to see you in Vegas!

Getting Started with SDR on Black Hills InfoSec Webcast

I’ll be on the Black Hills InfoSec webcast tomorrow talking about all the things you need to know to get started with SDR. You can register for the webcast at the link below:

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/3587817882602530306

Please bring your questions on SDR hardware, software, installation issues or anything else you can think of. See you there!

Installing gnuradio with Lime, HackRF and UHD support

The LimeSDR Mini is a great combination of things: affordable, full-duplex and incredibly configurable. Until recently, though, it wasn’t the easiest thing to get running. Scanning the forums at MyriadRF (the folks who make the Lime products) shows that a number of people have been able to get the Mini working but also that a number have not had so much success.

I was a pre-production supporter of the CrowdSupply campaign and had my LimeSDR Mini delivered in March. At first it was rough going, but after numerous attempts, I’ve been able to get a repeatable installation flow that works on Ubuntu 16.04 and supports UHD and HackRF hardware as well (it may support BladeRF, but I don’t have the hardware to test it).

You can grab the install script from my GitHub at:
https://github.com/paulgclark/grc-install

The git bundle also contains a number of simple grc files to validate your installation versus each of the three hardware platforms. After installation, my advice is that you test things with:
./grc/audio_tone.grc
./grc/lime-test/fm_receiver_hardware_lime.grc
(make sure to tune to one of your local stations)

Next, if you’ve got a second SDR (and computer) you can use the GFSK transmit and receive flowgraphs to send simple digital data back and forth between them. You should be able to send and receive from any combination of the three SDR platforms, though you will likely need to adjust the squelch levels depending on the physical distance between your SDRs. If a HackRF is involved, you’ll also need to fine tune the receiver flowgraph to compensate for their frequency error.

One thing to note about this install flow: you get version 3.7.10 of gnuradio-companion, not the latest as you’d get with a PyBOMBS installation.

Hope this helps!

Addendum: This flow will work for Ubuntu 18.04, but you’ll need to go into the install script and tweak one line per the commented instructions. You’ll also need to adjust the device args for the hackrf transmit flowgraphs to “driver=hackrf,soapy=0” (but do NOT type a space between the comma and “soapy”). A bonus to using 18.04 is that you’ll get a slightly newer version of gnuradio companion (3.7.11).

Updated gnuradio Install Instructions

We’ve gotten some feedback recently from a number of our readers that the gnuradio installation process documented in our books (and on our books’ web site) has a few glitches. We knew that we’d need to update the instructions at some point, and the time had definitely come. If you’re planning on installing gnuradio any time soon, please see our updated instructions pdf.