Introduction – Skywave Linux
Skywave Linux is an operating system using bleeding-edge technology to robustly access broadcast, utility, military, and amateur radio signals from almost anywhere in the world, including countries with restrictive internet environments. Skywave Linux connects to a large and growing network of state-of-the art software defined radio (SDR) servers, making it possible to experience high performance SDR operation without your own large antennas or on-site radio hardware.
All you need to do is boot the system on a computer with internet connectivity. Skywave Linux can also operate numerous types of SDR hardware, plugged in or on the local network. Downloading, installing and configuring SDR software can be difficult for many computer users; Skywave Linux eliminates the hassle by including several applications installed, configured, and ready to run.
I am currently testing Skywave Linux so I can listen to SDR (Software defined radio). I have it loaded on a Virtual Machine. I plan on dedicating a laptop for a hardware install in the near future.
Skywave Linux is a 64 bit system, built on a base of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, uses the MATE desktop environment, and draws on the capabilities of Ubuntu: software updating, graphics, system resource management, etc. It is the additional digital signal processing, networking, and signal decoding applications that set Skywave Linux apart from stock Ubuntu Linux. The default username is skywave and there is no password in the default system.
The radio software is largely compiled from source code and can be updated by end users with moderate computer skills, though Skywave Linux is designed for easy use by radio operators with basic computer skills. In fact, a key goal of Skywave Linux is to open the world of HPSDR and RTL-SDR operating to people who enjoy high performance radio but are not computer experts.
It may sometimes be advantageous for users to use encrypted connections which provide stronger privacy, security, and ability to circumvent censorship. For that purpose, the Lantern and Psiphon applications are installed. In addition, basic OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec connections are supported.
Several types of software defined radios are supported by Skywave Linux:
WebSDR servers are located all over the world and provide easy access to the global airwaves through the web browser. In Skywave Linux, use the application called WebSDR and OpenWebRX Servers to call up the best servers. A modern web browser is all one needs to enjoy clean, stable, AM / FM / SSB reception using this cutting edge technology. Servers at the University of Twente (NL) and G4FPH, Stafford (UK) are particularly good.
OpenWebRX servers are a new type of internet accessible SDR, growing rapidly in number. Use the WebSDR and OpenWebRX Servers application to access several excellent sites around the world, such as Victoria, British Columbia (Canada), Overland Park, Kansas (USA) or Chiba, Japan. OpenWebRX is installed in Skywave Linux and capable of running RTL-SDR and other hardware. I use to monitor HF.
RTL-SDR devices used on the local system. Just plug-and-play! CubicSDR and Gqrx are the main applications for receiving AM / FM / SSB modes. QtRadio (via the RTL-SDR controller script) offers advanced noise reduction and very high quality AM / SSB / CW reception, plus FM up to a 200 kHz bandwidth. Dump1090 (Mutability version) is for monitoring aircraft ADS-B transmissions. ADS-B mapping is available from Dump1090’s built in webserver. ADS-B data is also logged to a log file for further analysis if desired. ACARSDec and DumpVDL2 are multichannel decoders for aeronautical VHF data modes.
Each is capable of simultaneously monitoring up to eight channels at once without scanning and also logging the data to an SQL compatible file. RTLSDR-Airband is a multichannel monitor for AM or FM voice modes (not limited to airband), capable of simultaneously monitoring eight channels without scanning, mixing and streaming audio to the internet via an Icecast server.
Ettus Research USRP devices, offering advanced features and high performance. Their hardware can cover frequencies from DC through 6 GHz in a diverse array of signal modes.
HPSDR hardware, for internet accessible receivers, is covered by QtRadio. Several servers, operated by volunteers around the world, are online 24 hours a day, and cover spectrum from LF through low VHF. Performance is excellent from these servers, and the radio configuration options in QtRadio make for a “professional grade” operating experience. To find servers, use the menu: Receiver > Quick Server List. This application works best with broadband internet.
RemoteSDRClient connects to a network of shared RFSPACE SDRs. These are high performance radios, with advanced filtering and noise reduction software. Like the shared HPSDRs mentioned above, they require broadband internet connectivity for smooth operation.
SDRplay, Airspy, and BladeRF offer higher performance than RTL-SDR dongles. These devices feature stable and clean oscillators, sensitive front end circuitry, superior RF filters, broader RF bandwidths, and higher resolution ADC chipsets. CubicSDR and Gqrx are the applications built for running these devices.
For decoding RTTY, CW, PSK, WSPR, WSJT, RDS, and other digital radio transmission modes, the Fldigi and WSJT applications are installed, set to decode audio from the local or remote receivers. Weather satellite decoding is possible with the very capable WXtoImg application.
Gpredict provides real-time satellite tracking data and doppler corrected tuning control for Gqrx. In some cases it may be necessary to use the PulseAudio Volume Control application to select the best audio source and levels. Trunked radio systems may be monitored using SDRTrunk.
Conventional radio and video broadcast streams are also supported in Skywave Linux. Kodi Media Center provides access to thousands of music, talk, news, free-speech, and religious stations around the world.
Article Credits – Skywave Linux
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