Picture of rtl-sdr on Ubuntu
It was recently discovered that several cheap DVB-T usb dongles could be configured to be used as cheap ham radio receivers. 
Follow along with the discussions here: or find some of the useful software here:

 picked up one of the compatible receivers from ali-express:

and will document here the steps I took to set it up with gnuradio on ubuntu 12.04.

There are a few things that I won't cover in this instructable, because they deserve an instructable of their own. These include:

1) using the Ubuntu command line (terminal)
2) cloning a git repository
3) building software from source on Ubuntu (especially with cmake)

If anyone has links to stellar, class A++ quality tutorials on any of these things, please add them to the comment and I will link them here.
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Step 1: Install gnu-radio

Picture of Install gnu-radio
It looks like there are two options for installing an up-to-date gnuradio on ubuntu:

1) use an install script
2) install from source

Don't ask me why, but I tried the second option (probably the harder). After a first attempt that failed, I went for the first (and recommended option) to much success! So... lesson learned. Note to self, follow advice of program developers when installing software.

My advice, use the install script. 

Step 2: Install rtl-sdr tools

Next, you want to install any missing rtl-sdr specific tools from here:

Again, rather than duplicating instructions, follow the steps outlined here to install the rtlsdr library & capture tool: git://

Although this page also mentions a gnu radio module (git:// I was unable to get it to work. Instead, I installed:

as recommended from here:

the basic steps are:

git clone
cd gr-baz
sh bootstrap
sudo make install
sudo ldconfig

Now you should have all the necessary software to communicate with the DVB-T dongle using gnuradio.
RolfV1 year ago
Great instruction I'we allmost made it,

I was able to come to step four in braingram's instruction and with success test out the rtl-sdr with “ rtl_sdr capture.bin -s 1.8e6 -f 392e6 “ . Continuing stresses my limited Linux capabilities.

The instruction is : “ If all is still going well, try out the attached rtl.grc gnu-radio graph by downloading it and opening it with: gnuradio-companion ~/Downloads/rtl.grc “

I have three problems:
1) Downloading. I can see the attachment (rtl.grc 9KB) but trying to copy/paste it into downloads gives no result.
2) Opening. I can open the attachment by clicking it but it opens as a text file.
3) Finding. Searched the file system but cannot find anything that resembles “gnu-radio-companion ~/Downloads/rtl.grc”.

Would greatly appreciate if someone knowledgeable could give me a friendly push in the right direction.

On Ubuntu 12.10 64-bit, I get the error below, but gnuradio-core seems to be not available for 12.10.


checking for GNURADIO_CORE... configure: error: Package requirements (gnuradio-core >= 3) were not met:

No package 'gnuradio-core' found

jago25_982 years ago
Thanks for these instructions. The auto build script didn't work for me. I think I might have confused the git checkout with some other directories in the same dir.

I have to say, setting up sdrsharp (sdr#) on win32 was a lot easier, though it did involve copying over the rtl-sdr library as well.

Now I'm searching for a scanner than can go through all the frequencies automatically,
or an interface for linux as simple as sdr#, which I think might be linrad.

Note that ettus has binaries of just the gnuradio bit dev version and I think now those will support rtl-sdr too if you want to speed up the process.
Machine2 years ago
I'm new to SDR radio (Software Defined Radio) and have no idea what "RTL" is and have no idea what "gnuradio" is too.

OK, I went digging and found this:

Is RTL a reference to the Realtex USB DVB-T receiver?
braingram (author)  Machine2 years ago

It comes from the part name. See here:
Thanks for that website, it is packed with information. I found a Realek DVB-T for only $20 and I've got the software now. Thanks for your assistance.
dildozer2 years ago
If you need a real guide for setting this up...
mrklaw2 years ago
Thanks for sharing this. I have been having the build-gnuradio script barf with the error "you do not appear to have the 'rtl-sdr' directory.

Do I just move on to step 2 of your instructions since that also appears to involve rtl-sdr tools?