Let’s talk about the hardware that’s necessary for any software-defined radio experimentation. The first thing you’re going to need, obviously, is a radio—or its equivalent in the SDR world: a USB dongle. Most dongles in the SDR space have been originally designed as TV tuners, to allow the user to receive HD TV signals out of the air. As their popularity has grown (for both tuning into television signals and for software-defined radio enthusiasts) they’ve come down significantly in price, and many of them can be used to detect all sorts of signals, given the right antenna. Repurposing these dongles fits one definition of hacking: making a device do something it wasn’t built to do.

The most common SDR dongles you’re likely to see use ...

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