RTL-SDR (Part I)

This morning I visited my favorite coffee shop and decided to fool around with my RTL-SDR T.V. tuner. I’ve used it once before to decode the information sent via my car’s fob. At the time, I was interested in attempting to crack how the “code” sent to my car was encoded, but I was quickly discouraged by the level of encryption. Jamming the TX to a car and then replaying it later is a much more effective method.

This morning I was simply exploring the functionality of it again in preparation for spurious signal detection on a job site later in the week. I loaded up GQRX and took a look around 900MHz and I found a few cool FM signals.

Selection_052.pngHere you can see what I believe is FSK signal at 930MHz. I recored the audio using a narrow-band FM demodulator and opened it in Audacity to see if I could see any data / preambles / or sync periods for the receiver. Amazingly, I could!


Here you can see what a believe is a preamble followed by a sync period for the receivers clock. Pretty wild! I’ll zoom into the data right after the sync period now.

The preambleĀ  appears to have a period of 27ms which is approx. 37Hz followed by the sync period which is 1-2ms (audacity isn’t really built for this and isn’t giving a ton of resolution). This means the data is being clocked at around 1 – 0.5 kHz. Not blazing fast by any means.


Interestingly, this is later followed by a sync period with an identical clock and then another which appears to double the clock. I’m guessing the transmitter sends some basic information at a low data rate for receiver’s with a crappy RSSI and then additional information for those with a decent RSSI value.Selection_056.png

I decided to extend the clock through out the signal w/ Pinta (the Linux version of paint) to see if I could determine the encoding scheme (NRZ, Manchester, etc). As expected, I literally have no idea what I’m doing and extending th clock didn’t really reveal anything to me. I would expect the data to sampled on either the rising or falling edge, but appears to be needed on both edges for to detect some of edge transitions. Manchester / Bi-phase is kinda outta the question right away based on the length of some of the pulses.


I think when I get some time and I’m tired of IdeasX, I’ll build a receiver in GNUradio which will sync sampling based on the edge transitions, examine common encoding techniques, and then bust this thing. I tried to open an existing NFM receiver design, but it appears to be using some dated blocks.

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