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Ubuntu GNURadio with 2 USB Sticks

ubuntu gnuradio

Run Ubuntu GNURadio with two USB sticks. This should work on almost any newer PC without installing anything on the hard drive. 

Recently, we have been exploring GNURadio installed on Windows 10. At some point, you might want to use the original Linux version, which gives access to tools available only in Linux. So, here is how to get Ubuntu GNURadio up and running less than half an hour.

Basically, it just involves plugging two USB sticks into any computer. The first is the RTL-SDR dongle. The second is a USB Memory Drive. Here’s how this works.

GNURadio provides a Live SDR Environment. This is a bootable Ubuntu Linux DVD or USB drive image, with GNU Radio and third party software preinstalled. All you do is install this image onto a USB Drive and use it to boot your computer into Ubuntu GNURadio. Here are instructions on how to create the bootable USB stick.

Pretty much every PC has a procedure for interrupting the normal boot process, typically by pressing F12. Once you interrupt the normal boot process, you simply tell your computer to boot from the Live SDR Environment. From then on, your computer boots into and runs Ubuntu. The USB drive takes the place of your normal hard drive. If you followed the installation procedure, you will be able to save your settings and files back onto the USB drive.

After you are finished using your PC as a Ubuntu GNURadio machine, just shut down and reboot back into your normal Windows configuration. This is probably the simplest way to experiment with GNURadio in Linux.

Ubuntu GNURadio – Virtual Machines Work, Too

Slightly more complicated is installing Ubuntu on a Virtual Machine. I use VMWare. After creating your Ubuntu VM, just install GNURadio. I find the Synaptic Package Installer useful for finding and installing programs in Ubuntu.

You benefit from being able to access your Windows PC at the same time as you are running Linux in the virtual machine. Rebooting is not required as with the USB drive approach.

However, make sure that your PC is good enough to run GNURadio in a virtual machine. My radio computer is a first-generation Intel i7 with four physical and eight logical CPU cores. By default, VMWare only assigns one processor to its guest operating systems. This caused my GNURadio virtual machine to stall. By increasing number of processors to 3, the VM then ran GNURadio smoothly.

My friend Walt was bugging me recently to use Linux more. Well, now I have!

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