SCaLE 14x interview with Schuyler St. Leger and the Open Source Radio

By on January 18, 2016
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Schuyler St. Leger is one of the superheroes of the maker movement. He’s a speaker, young maker, and was featured in Make magazine. His famous presentation, Why I love my 3-D Printer has received over 300,000 views on YouTube.

Schuyler is keynoting at SCaLE 14x, where he’ll talk about open source radio and how it’s impacting the world around us. We’re surrounded by radios in smartphones, tablets, laptops, and Wi-Fi access points, yet we often fail to realize their ubiquitous presence. The airwaves are a fantastic space for exploration, but where do we begin? Open source radio combined with open hardware is a rich space for exploration and experimentation.

What is it about open source radio that interests you the most?

Software defined radio interests me because of the possibilities it opens up. SDR makes exploring the RF spectrum much less expensive, significantly lowering the barrier to entry. It also enables more research into RF communications systems. The fact that there are many open source hardware and software projects that focus on SDR make it really accessible and affordable and also provides dynamic communities around these projects. Those communities are great for getting answers to questions or meeting like-minded people.

Software is very important to SDR because all of the processing is done in software. I am a proponent of open source because sharing your work helps with innovation and helps other people learn. Open source radio is a natural extension of open source and SDR.

What are the first steps someone could take to get started in software defined radio for Linux?

Any new learning venture starts out with curiosity and a desire to know more, more about how something works or about that something itself. For me, I came across SDR during some online reading. Wikipedia is always a fantastic starting point for nearly anything! Using the Internet to research SDR and learn about both hardware and software will provide a great foundation.

The next step is to acquire (beg, borrow, but preferably don’t steal) a SDR hardware platform. The RTL-SDR USB dongle is a great platform to get started on. Next, install GNURadio (signal processing tool), GrOsmoSDR (provides a standard interface in GNURadio to interface with SDR hardware), libRTLSDR (the hardware interface driver for the RTL-SDR dongle), and Gqrx (to browse the spectrum). I should add that I’ve given several introduction to SDR talks that provide an easy tutorial for getting started. From here, it’s really just about playing around with the software and seeing what’s out there on the RF spectrum!

Full interview here: SCaLE 14x interview with Schuyler St. Leger

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