How to get started with Software Defined Radio (SDR)


The cheapest way to get started is to buy a DVD USB dongle from ebay/amazon. Get one with a realtek chip and you should only need to pay around $10-$20 AUD e.g. search for “dvb dongle realtek” on ebay for your nearest seller.

Software (Windows)

Installing on Linux
While there are lots of options and installation methods including GNU Radio Live, Pentoo and Skywave Linux etc. It is very easy to install on Ubuntu now. For a quick start, run the following commands on Ubuntu:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install gnuradio
$ sudo apt-get install gqrx-sdr

You can now plug in your RTLSDR dongle and try listening to a radio station using GQRX. Also try browsing around the other frequencies to see what you can hear.

Also check out:

Installing on Windows
SDRSharp is very popular on Windows (equivalent of GQRX on Linux), check out some installation instructions and tutorials here:

Looking at Aircraft

Looking at Ships

Looking at Pagers
Introduction to SDR workshop slides show how to get going with multimon-ng for pagers and dump1090 for airplanes on the Linux command line.

Introduction to Radio Theory

GNU Radio Introduction

Michael Ossmann’s SDR videos:
Cyberspectrum Bay Area record their talks and post to YouTube.
Cyberspectrum Melbourne also record and post talks to YouTube.

The Hobbyist’s Guide to the RTL-SDR: Really Cheap Software Defined Radio by Carl Laufer
Radio Theory Handbook. Beginner to Advanced by Mr Ronald Bertrand
GNU Radio’s reading list:


Join in and ask questions on IRC:
##rtlsdr on freenode
#gnuradio on freenode
#hak5 on freenode
#airspy on freenode
#bladerf on freenode
#hackrf on freenode
##hamradio on freenode
#sdrsig on freenode
#satnogs on freenode

– Check out your local area, there may be a SDR meetup group near you!
– In Melbourne, we have Cyberspectrum Melbourne which meets every month.
– In Tasmania, there is also the SDRSIG group.
– In the Bay Area – USA, there is the excellent Cyberspectrum Bay Area.
– A lot of conferences are also running SDR workshops and introductions now too, e.g. in Australia there is Playpuscon in Sydney, Ruxcon in Melbourne and BSides in Canberra. So check out your local conferences too!

Cyberspectrum Melbourne Meetup Details
Come along to our meetup group in Melbourne or join our slack channel:
– Twitter: @sdr_melbourne
– Email: sdr/dot/
– Slack: (email for an invite)
– Meetup:
– Github:
– YouTube: