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Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] ham/amateur getting started

From: Marcus Müller
Subject: Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] ham/amateur getting started
Date: Sun, 27 Dec 2015 09:40:44 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:38.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/38.1.0

Hi Kevin,
beautiful email!

On 12/27/2015 01:16 AM, Kevin McQuiggin wrote:
Amateur radio has also historically been a source of innovation and new technologies.  This has been fairly constant throughout the 100+ years of amateur activity.  In many cases, while a specific new technology may not have arisen directly from amateur radio activity, the innovative spirit that arises from amateur "tinkering" activity has inspired many "hams" to innovate commercially, generating new products and technologies.

The fact that amateur radio is, by definition, "amateur", and that the "ham" population is diverse educationally and socially is in itself a form of technological advantage.
And that's why it's so exciting to have amateur operators to talk to -- I don't come from a ham background myself, and so I'm learning new stuff every day. It's often the practical things that stop you if you're a "theory and lab person".
Here on the list, I think that we'll see that remaining small percentage of amateurs who are technically inclined, and willing to invest time in a steep learning curve in order to figure this really interesting SDR stuff out!

Yeah! I really really think we must learn how different hams learn how to use GNU Radio, and its style of DSP in general. I've taken the easy route myself: after having been tediously taught a lot of math (including some math that I don't need any more), they've tediously taught me signal theory (amongst basics of a lot of other EE disciplines that I don't need as often), then they taught me basics of communication technology, and then I ended up doing a few hours a week in a lab that employed GNU Radio, with an advisor who was arms deep involved in GR at the time. I had plenty of (partly even paid) time to get to know GNU Radio, and I had all the theory to just make the puzzling pieces I encounter fall into place.

For example, things felt a bit like this at times: Ah, there's a sample stream; I knew what sampling a signal implied, so seeing these signals represented by sequences of complex numbers actually do something was more fun than confusing.

When I met something new, like resamplers, I had plenty of go-to literature and, at least as important, people to talk to, both in a professional environment (as far as university labs are professional), and for the "deeper" questions, over a cold beer. Also, I started embracing the mailing list; I actually probably learned most by answering questions, as I tended to start reading the source code, making sketches and whatnot to understand what other people were seeing. This really only works out if you've got plenty of time at your hands, plenty of peers you can ask, and if you're constantly having epiphanies, or else motivation will probably grind to a halt fast. It's not like GNU Radio is thoroughly easy to understand; it starts with its own naming system, the organizational structures with the in- and out-of-tree modules, a lot of blocks with functionality that only makes sense if you understand the inner workings of GR quite well and definitely doesn't stop at all at things like the algorithms involved, ~90% of which I have a vague idea what they actually do, at best.

Now, if an amateur radio enthusiast gets in touch with GNU Radio, I always hope we don't lose her/his interest in the first 15 minutes; we just throw so much at someone who hasn't had exactly the same education as we had. The point is that GNU Radio really must be tinkering-friendly, and that means that it should be possible for people to start with something working, if possible even with something that means something to them, and work as deep as they need, learning stuff along the way.
The guided tutorials we wrote are a step in that direction, but they are definitely not ham-friendly or -centric; they are very hands-on (if followed through actively), but they don't attempt to cooperative well with people that have a lot of radio comm knowledge, just not on the DSP side. Essentially, a computer science student with a few hours of digital modulation basics will probably have a better chance getting through them than someone who actually has sent digital symbols to the moon and back. That is not fair, let alone a good thing.

However, it's easier and somewhat necessary to tell people "there's a lot of math/signal theory involved, but we can't teach you that". Now, that is a very important problem, so my blind guess is that there is in fact literature and web sites out there that try to bring DSP closer to people that have an amateur license. In fact, license education is a very interesting problem here, and I had a very nice discussion with Markus about this at the HAMRADIO15; it's basically been time for the last decade at least to modernize the state's license curriculum to include more digital aspects of operation and theory, but someone has to come up with both the contents we want hams to understand and methods of teaching them, before anyone's going to make a move on that. I don't know of any courses that do – but probably, someone has already held such a course, and maybe we're going to be hearing about that!




On Dec 26, 2015, at 3:14 PM, Markus Heller <address@hidden> wrote:

Hi Tom,

that's right, I don't operate that much myself. I do from time to time,
and sometimes I also take great pleasure in worldwide CW contests, out
in the German wilderness, in a tent :-) But just twice a year. The rest
of the time I rather focus software development, APRS & Raspberry, SDR
development and understanding how you compare traditional AC signal
processing with maths, as most people on this list.

Our hobby is so diverse and it has so many interesting sides, and it is
a real pitty that in the public perception many people reduce it to
sitting in front of a box chatting with others. That is one important
aspect, but it is not the core of amateur radio.

If you look at the laws that define amateur radio: It is a legal
framework for people who want to do private experiments with radio
devices whatsoever. It is not defined as a free alternative to


Am Samstag, den 26.12.2015, 15:34 -0500 schrieb Tom Rondeau:
On Thu, Dec 24, 2015 at 7:06 PM, Markus Heller <address@hidden>
       Hi there,

       I'm very sorry that I cannot join this FOSDEM. I'd love to,
       but I must
       travel to see an old friend of our family who is seriously ill
       - I
       promised to visit him end of January.

       I'd like to contradict to Martin's observation. Last year's
       clearly showed that around 80% of the GNURadio audience holds
       an Amateur
       Radio callsign.

       There are many more HAMs than it seems around here. Keep in
       mind that we
       had a guest list at the UBA / DARC booth and we got around 90

       I am also pretty sure that it will just be the same for the



First, really too bad you can't make it this year, and we appreciate
the hams that are building cool stuff with GNU Radio. However, I
wanted to point out that while many of us /have/ an amateur license
and call sign, there's a different question of how many really operate
at hams? I think that second number in our project is significantly

This isn't meant to discourage anyone here. I just thought that should
be more clear.


       Am Donnerstag, den 24.12.2015, 15:05 -0800 schrieb Martin
Hey Daniel,

thanks for this discussion. We don't get a whole lot of
       hardcore hams
here, despite the radio, and it'll be nice to make it easier
       for them to
join the community. I look forward to your wiki
On 12/24/2015 01:57 PM, Daniel Pocock wrote:
OK, I'll probably get into making some contributions like
       that as I
start playing around with it.  I'm still at a very early
       stage just
working out which hardware I need and how to get it.

Will you or anybody else with an interest in this for
       amateur purposes
be over at FOSDEM?  There is an SDR dev-room[1] again and
       there was also
talk on the main FOSDEM list about an amateur radio
       presence[2] of some
We weren't able to find someone to speak on behalf of the
       hams at next
year's FOSDEM, but there'll be a booth. I do hope to find
       some hams in
the audience, though.


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