Adjusting the SatNOGS Client

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(This page is a port of DL4PD's excellent post to the SatNOGS forum.)

Prerequisites / dependencies

This page assumes:

SatNOGS station adjustments

Now you've come to a point where you want to know how well your station is performing. The first step is to determine your frequency offset.

automatic adjustment via kalibrate-rtl

As a more comfortable way to get the ppm of your SDR the tool kal from https://github.com/viraptor/kalibrate-rtl can be used. At the moment you probably have to get and build it by yourself.

When using the pre-built image for the Raspberry Pi, you have to install the following dependencies:

$ sudo apt-get install libtool pkg-config libfftw3-dev librtlsdr-dev

Then you can build and install it with

$ ./bootstrap
$ CXXFLAGS='-W -Wall -O3' ./configure
$ make
$ sudo make install

For usage, see available parameters:

$ kal -h
kalibrate v0.4.1-rtl, Copyright (c) 2010, Joshua Lackey
modified for use with rtl-sdr devices, Copyright (c) 2012, Steve Markgraf
Usage:
	GSM Base Station Scan:
		kal <-s band indicator> [options]

	Clock Offset Calculation:
		kal <-f frequency | -c channel> [options]

Where options are:
	-s	band to scan (GSM850, GSM-R, GSM900, EGSM, DCS, PCS)
	-f	frequency of nearby GSM base station
	-c	channel of nearby GSM base station
	-b	band indicator (GSM850, GSM-R, GSM900, EGSM, DCS, PCS)
	-g	gain in dB
	-d	rtl-sdr device index
	-e	initial frequency error in ppm
	-E	manual frequency offset in hz
	-v	verbose
	-D	enable debug messages
	-h	help


choose an appropriate band for scanning:

$ kal -s GSM900
Found 1 device(s):
  0:  Generic RTL2832U OEM

Using device 0: Generic RTL2832U OEM
Found Elonics E4000 tuner
Exact sample rate is: 270833.002142 Hz
kal: Scanning for GSM-900 base stations.
GSM-900:
    chan:   33 (941.6MHz - 155Hz)    power: 4877018.31
    chan:   41 (943.2MHz - 208Hz)    power: 2265226.87
    chan:   43 (943.6MHz - 133Hz)    power: 1287992.91
    chan:   55 (946.0MHz - 179Hz)    power: 1041611.46
    chan:   57 (946.4MHz - 252Hz)    power: 1405188.40
    chan:   66 (948.2MHz -  13Hz)    power: 5027059.56
    chan:   79 (950.8MHz - 111Hz)    power: 1088677.82
    chan:   84 (951.8MHz - 231Hz)    power:  945912.38
    chan:   86 (952.2MHz - 212Hz)    power: 2314696.93
    chan:  116 (958.2MHz - 180Hz)    power:  862935.90


choose a strong channel:

$ kal -c 33
Found 1 device(s):
  0:  Generic RTL2832U OEM

Using device 0: Generic RTL2832U OEM
Found Elonics E4000 tuner
Exact sample rate is: 270833.002142 Hz
kal: Calculating clock frequency offset.
Using GSM-900 channel 33 (941.6MHz)
Tuned to 941.600000MHz (reported tuner error: 0Hz)
average		[min, max]	(range, stddev)
- 206Hz		[-293, -89]	(204, 56.913998)
overruns: 0
not found: 0
average absolute error: 0.219 ppm


Now enter the measured ppm in satnogs-setup and you're done.

manual adjustment

To start, please connect to your Raspberry Pi's local web interface. By default the URL is something like "http://192.168.0.5:5000"; you'll need to figure out what it is for your client. In the upper right corner there is a big green button where you can set your ground station in standalone mode.

Here's how it looks in network mode:

SatNOGS local network mode.png

And here's how it looks when it's switched to standalone mode:

SatNOGS local standalone mode.png

Instead of using the standalone mode you can also stop and later start the satnogs-client service via systemd directly via the console:

sudo systemctl stop satnogs-client
sudo systemctl start satnogs-client
Idea.png
  • Do not forget to set this back to network mode when done with your adjustments!
  • While your station is in standalone mode, no observations from the SatNOGS network will be executed!

After setting to standalone mode, please SSH to your SatNOGS Pi with your well-known user account; by default, this is the user "pi". After successful authorization you will see a prompt like this:

 Linux satnogs190-dev 4.9.59-v7+ #1047 SMP Sun Oct 29 12:19:23 GMT 2017 armv7l

 The programs included with the Debian GNU/Linux system are free software;
 the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
 individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

 Debian GNU/Linux comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent
 permitted by applicable law.
 Last login: Fri Jan 12 07:34:11 2018 from 192.168.10.35
 pd@satnogs190-dev:~ $

Now go ahead and start the "RTL SDR spectrum server":

$ rtl_tcp -a 0.0.0.0

If everything is fine, you will get an output like this:

 Found 1 device(s):
   0:  Generic, RTL2832U, SN: 77771111153705700

 Using device 0: Generic RTL2832U
 Found Rafael Micro R820T tuner
 [R82XX] PLL not locked!
 Tuned to 100000000 Hz.
 listening...

Use the device argument 'rtl_tcp=0.0.0.0:1234' in OsmoSDR (gr-osmosdr) source to receive samples in GRC and control rtl_tcp parameters (frequency, gain, ...). No further output will be generated until you connect to this server. Hitting C-c will stop it and the command line appears. 
Idea.png
You will have to stop this server if you want to go back to network mode - do not forget about this!

Now go ahead and start gqrx:

Startup gqrx.png

You will have to go to the setup menu, either by clicking on the "harde" symbol, or navigating through the menu item called "File -> I/O Devices"

Gqrx io configuration.png

Click on "Device" and chose "RTL-SDR Spectrum Server" Edit "Device string" to match your Pi's IP address, Port defaults to 1234, which is the same as the default setting for your server you just started on the Pi. Set "Input Rate" to something network friendly - we do not need the whole spectrum the RTL SDR is able to convert. 1,8 MSPS (1800000) should be OK Depending on this setting your network will get very busy. Using wireless LAN is not recommended. Every sample has a data size of 16 bits, so the previous setting of 1,8MSPS/s results in a network load of 28,8 MBit/s:

1,8 MSPS * 16 bit/s = 28,8 MBit/s


"Audio Output -> Device" and "-> Sample rate" should be set by default, values on average soundcards would be something like "Default, 48 kHz" Close the dialogue by clicking "OK" Your RTL-SDR spectrum server on the Pi should now show up a connection from your computer running gqrx.

 client accepted!
 set gain mode 1
 set agc mode 0
 set direct sampling 0
 Disabled direct sampling mode
 set offset tuning 0
 set sample rate 960000
 ll+, now 1
 ll+, now 2
 set freq correction 42
 set freq 144500000
 set gain mode 0
 set agc mode 1
 set gain 0
 set freq 145814000
 ll-, now 0
 ll+, now 1
 ll+, now 2
 ll+, now 3
 ll+, now 4
 ll+, now 5
 ll+, now 6
 ll+, now 7
 ll+, now 8
 ll+, now 9
 ll+, now 10
 ll+, now 11
 ll+, now 12
 ll+, now 13

The only thing left now is to "Start DSP" - from the menu item "File", by hitting C-d or simply clicking the Play-Button.

Gqrx running.png

Go for a known local HAM radio repeater or a CW beacon transmitter and set your demodulator accordingly. Narrow Band FM or CW is best to discover ppm error offset, which is the frequency offset in parts per million (ppm) which is always there with standard RTL-SDR dongles. It is also highly temperature dependent, so one might have to re-evaluate this from time to time. Enter the known frequency of your chosen transmitter (NFM repaeter or CW beacon). I have chosen a very known CW beacon just some km away from my home: ON4VHF on 144.718000 MHz. Walk through the tab called "Receiver options" and change the settings to fit the beacon: "Filter width Normal", "Filter shape Normal", "Mode CW-L", "AGC Medium". Set Squelch to something low, so you can hear noise from your speakers. Maybe you have to Adjust the audio "Gain" to something like "0.0 dB". You can adjust this to fit your needs to hear noise. With ppm error, which is default, set to 0.0 ppm, one can just guess where your receiver is listening. Anyway, just set it to 144.718000 MHz and try to find your beacon. You can see the result for my RTL SDR dongle down here:

Gqrx ppm-error offset.png

Now got to the tab called "Input controls" and find an input field called "Freq. correction". By default this should show "0,0 ppm". Set frequency back to your beacons transmit frequency. After this you have to increase the Freq. correction value as long until you can hear the beacon. Now zoom into the panorama by locating your mouse pointer in the range where the frequency values are printed below the panorama, just above the waterfall. Try to fit the Freq. correction value as good as possible, that your receivers red indication line is just in the middle of the transmitters bandwidth.

Gqrx ppm-error corrected.png

Now write down the evaluated ppm correction value and exit gqrx as well as the RTL SDR spectrum server. In the command line now available start satnogs-setup:

$ sudo satnogs-setup

Navigate to "Advanced -> SATNOGS_PPM_ERROR" and enter the new value.

Fcecd26ca08cf3d23dffce719ef1dd13a4f7109d.png

Exit the satnogs-setup with "Back", then "Apply Configuration" (this might take a while) and "Back".

You are done with frequency offset correction.

Idea.png
With gqrx, you get a nice tool to do some SDR stuff by the way. Just play around a bit and get familiar with all that stuff. Just keep in mind that, as long as you run the RTL SDR Spectrum server or you have set your client into standalone mode, nothing is done from network.

Enhancements

Waterfall color improvements

To get some nicer waterfalls one has to dig into waterfall plotting script. This is a static one and, so far, cannot be configured through satnogs-setup. Anyway: there is no magic behind it and one can understand what the changes are once you have seen them.

Log into the Pi and start at making a copy of /usr/share/satnogs/scripts/satnogs_waterfall.gp, just in case:

$ cp /usr/share/satnogs/scripts/satnogs_waterfall.gp ~/.

Now you can start editing the script:

$ sudo nano /usr/share/satnogs/scripts/satnogs_waterfall.gp

Search for a line starting with cbtics:

# Spectravue palette and scale
set cbtics (-110, -105, -100, -95, -90, -85, -80, -75, -70, -65, -60, -55, -50, -55, -40)

Comment it out by adding a #, copy, paste and edit that new line that it matches something like this:

# Spectravue palette and scale
#set cbtics (-110, -105, -100, -95, -90, -85, -80, -75, -70, -65, -60, -55, -50, -55, -40)
set cbtics (-90, -85, -80, -75, -70, -65, -60, -55, -50, -55, -45, -40, -35, -40, -25)

Now go ahead and find a line with cbrange:

set ylabel 'Time (seconds)'
set cbrange [-100:-50]

I guess, one already gets the point - change cbrange to match the new cbtics:

set ylabel 'Time (seconds)'
#set cbrange [-100:-50]
set cbrange [-85:-35]

Save the file and you are done. Schedule some observations and watch the new colors. Maybe you can just improve it a little more but keep in mind: always keep a bit of the noise floor into the waterfalls, so you can see the whole signals dynamic range. I love it, when there are only a few dots of the noise.