You know when your repeatedly bashing away at a problem and getting nowhere? , thats actually how getting (any) SDR dongle running on my tiny XP powered notebook has been.
This little beauty has been used a lot on radio outings, usually with a shortwave receiver attached and hunting for ham SSTV, PSK and various other datamodes. The idea to slap a RTL Dongle on it has been bumping around in my head for months now and having almost had a melt down 2 weeks ago as it just wasn’t coming together, I put the project on hold.
A few hours to spare last night and feeling as relaxed as I could ever get meant the perfect time to have another go. Starting with a clean slate can often be the best option with computers, so stripped out everything I was trying before and went for it.
Not sure what was going on last time but following roughly the same route gave almost instant success???. Perhaps I was more switched on this time around or maybe exhausting all the error routes last time helped.
Having to go with the HDSDR software because SDR# isn’t XP friendly has left me with a program I’ve never used before to figure out, but I’ll accept the time thats going to take just to have this addition to my outdoor radio playtime.
A good place to start is the guides on the excellent RTL-SDR.com (scroll down page for HDSR setup).
Your going to need an older XP compatible version of Zadig which can be found here at Zadig Downloads. There are few versions of Zadig for XP and after trying them all, only had success with the zadig_xp.exe file.
A slight annoyance is that the HDSDR interface is too big for the notebooks dinky screen and have to scroll across to see everything. I’m optimistic there’s a solution for this, but if anybody can throw me a bone, I’d be very grateful 🙂
A Few Considerations
I’ve be thinking for some time what the power needs of the dongle stuck in the USB port along with the SDR software would do to the battery life and even without testing, I think there could be a big issue here.
Normally running audio from a radio into the notebook and using MultiPSK will give me 4hrs of use, but judging how (very) hot the bottom of the notebook got after 10 mins with the SDR dongle, I have the feeling this may be a whole lot shorter, especially if the notebook goes into thermal shock 🙂
Must take a good look at this before heading out the door as I could do without killing the notebooks battery within the first hour or so. Kinda hoping this setup is going to be usable though as it will add a whole new dimension to my mountain radio trips.
As with all operating systems there are pointless items running you could do without (bloated Windows has loads) and by trimming some of these processes I may be able to extend things (and hopefully give the processor an easier time).
With more free time toward the end of the week, I’ve set aside some time on Friday to (carefully) start butchering the operating system. This notebook doesn’t ever go online because of the lack of updates for XP, so there’s lots of security related crap that will be the first to go.
A wideband SDR deserves a wideband antenna and the only one that isn’t a bulky discone is currently stuck up on the chimmery of my house. Question is, do I break out the ladders, mess with a perfectly good installation or bite the bullet and pick up another just for field days? (Newark Hamfest is this weekend coming).