Pre-built Linux SDR platforms
Looking to give Linux a try for your SDR applications but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you’re tired of constantly searching for dependencies when you want to try out a new SDR technique or hardware?
There’s certainly something to be said for the approach of running the latest Ubuntu LTS version and installing the required software and drivers yourself. Most Linux SDR tutorials out there on web are based on Ubuntu and so you will generally find yourself following install guides and tutorials quite closely and this will also help build up knowledge of the Linux system you’re running. It’s a well-trodden path with plenty of support out there. However, if you just want to install an OS and get going, maybe have a look at the options below that include drivers and applications for the most popular SDR hardware and software built in to the OS. This can save you a lot of time in getting up and running and may meet your needs.
Using a pre-made SDR image like those listed below is a quick way of getting started with new hardware and not getting drawn into building from git or dependency hell. It’s also a great way of browsing a range of radio applications that you may not already be aware of and seeing how other people are using SDR.
DragonOS is a version of a popular and well-supported Linux distro with many pre-installed SDR drivers and applications. At the time of writing, DragonOS LTS is the latest version, now based on Ubuntu (Lubuntu 18.04 to be precise) after a move away from earlier Debain versions. DragonOS-creator Aaron is building up excellent walkthroughs and demos of DragonOS on his YouTube channel.
If you want to give DragonOS a try it works as a Live USB or can be run in Virtualbox if you don’t fancy installing it. I’ve just taken DragonOS for a test drive in VirtualBox and it had no problems running a LimeSDR Mini with the pre-installed drivers and software.
Running your SDR applications on a Raspberry Pi? Have a look at PiSDR. With the latest upgrades in terms of CPU, RAM and dedicated Ethernet the Raspberry Pi can be a good platform to run SDR applications, especially if your application takes you portable. PiSDR is built specifically for the Raspberry Pi and supports common SDR hardware such as HackRF, RTL-SDR, LimeSDR, PlutoSDR, Airspy, and Airspy HF+ along with all the usual software applications. RTL-Blog do a great job of tracking the progress of the popular PiSDR distro so have a look.