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: http://www.reddit.com/r/rtlsdr or find some of the useful software here: http://sdr.osmocom.org/trac/wiki/rtl-sdr

 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.

Step 1: 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. 
<p>While installing the GNU radio from the script it does not go ahead of &quot;Done checking packages&quot; message. what can I do about this?</p>
There's a nice Ubuntu remaster called &quot;Skywave Linux&quot; with plug and play RTL-SDR support.<br><br>http://skywavelinux.com<br><br>It has some other apps as well, but CubicSDR runs right out of the box, and the dreaded kernel driver dvb_usb_rtl28xxu is blacklisted by default.
<p>when i run the command sh bootstrap i get an error sh: 0: Can't open bootstrap. pls suggest me a solution?</p>
I'm new to SDR radio (Software Defined Radio) and have no idea what &quot;RTL&quot; is and have no idea what &quot;gnuradio&quot; is too. <br> <br>OK, I went digging and found this: <br>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Radio <br> <br>Is RTL a reference to the Realtex USB DVB-T receiver?
<p>Yes, that is the one. Is just a cheap receiver up to 2.1 GHz. </p>
Correct! <br> <br>It comes from the part name. See here: <br>http://sdr.osmocom.org/trac/wiki/rtl-sdr
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.
<p>Great tutorial, thanks for sharing it. I have two comments that might make it easier for others. <br><br>First, I had some problems, like you had, installing gr-osmosdr, but I found out that you can install it by just doing &quot;sudo apt-get install gr-osmosdr&quot; I think is easier to install than gr-baz if you don't have npm or any of the other framework dependencies.<br><br>Second, I added a WX GUI Text Box to your rtl.grc to set the frequency so you can tune to other FM stations without stopping the application. Basically you give it a name to the Text Box and instead of typing a number in the Frequency field in the RTL-SDR Source you type the name of the Text Box</p>
Great instruction I'we allmost made it,<br> <br> I was able to come to step four in braingram's instruction and with success test out the rtl-sdr with &ldquo; rtl_sdr capture.bin -s 1.8e6 -f 392e6 &ldquo; . Continuing stresses my limited Linux capabilities.<br> <br> The instruction is : &ldquo; 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 &ldquo;<br> <br> I have three problems:<br> 1) Downloading. I can see the attachment (rtl.grc 9KB) but trying to copy/paste it into downloads gives no result.<br> 2) Opening. I can open the attachment by clicking it but it opens as a text file.<br> 3) Finding. Searched the file system but cannot find anything that resembles &ldquo;gnu-radio-companion ~/Downloads/rtl.grc&rdquo;.<br> <br> Would greatly appreciate if someone knowledgeable could give me a friendly push in the right direction.<br> <br> RolfV
On Ubuntu 12.10 64-bit, I get the error below, but gnuradio-core seems to be not available for 12.10. <br> <br>Tips? <br> <br> <br> <br>checking for GNURADIO_CORE... configure: error: Package requirements (gnuradio-core &gt;= 3) were not met: <br> <br>No package 'gnuradio-core' found <br> <br>
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. <br> <br>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. <br> <br>Now I'm searching for a scanner than can go through all the frequencies automatically, <br>or an interface for linux as simple as sdr#, which I think might be linrad. <br> <br>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.
If you need a real guide for setting this up... http://www.thepowerbase.com/2012/06/getting-started-with-rtl-sdr/
Thanks for sharing this. I have been having the build-gnuradio script barf with the error &quot;you do not appear to have the 'rtl-sdr' directory. <br> <br>Do I just move on to step 2 of your instructions since that also appears to involve rtl-sdr tools?
Cool. <br>

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