Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
PROBLEM: With your RF analyzer attached, when you launch the Rational Waves application it prompts whether you wish to run in Demo mode. There are a few things you can check:
1. Ensure the software driver for your particular RF analyzer device is properly installed.
2. Not all USB cables are created equal. Rational Waves requires a USB cable that supports *BOTH* data and power. Some USB cables only support power. So -- try another one or two USB cables. Also, do not use a USB HUB or insert an adapter between the cable and your computer's USB port.
3. Bad USB port or one that can not provide enough power to the attached RF analyzer. Try a different USB port or even another machine, if one is available.
The shipping version of the PlutoSDR uses the AD9364 chip which, by default, has been restricted to a frequency range of 325 - 3800 MHz and a bandwidth of 20 MHz. However, the AD9364 is capable of supporting a frequency range of 70 MHz - 6000 MHz and a bandwidth of 56 MHz. Below we provide instructions for upgrading the device's firmware to support the broader frequency range and wider span.
1. Check that the software driver for the PlutoSDR is properly installed. Under Windows' Device Manager you should see both a network and serial interface for the PlutoSDR device.
2. Download and install PuTTY (0.74) for Windows. PuTTY is a popular terminal emulator and free SSH client. We will use PuTTY to create a serial connection with the PlutoSDR and issue several commands to upgrade the device. Here is a link for downloading the PuTTY installer.
3. Launch PuTTY to create an SSH connection with the PlutoSDR device. Use the IP address: 192.168.2.1.
If you see a PuTTY security alert, it is okay. Just press 'Yes' to continue.
4. When the SSH terminal appears log into the PlutoSDR device using the login of 'root' and password 'analog'.
5. You are now ready to enter the commands to upgrade the device's firmware to support the broader frequency range and wider span.
# fw_setenv attr_name compatible
# fw_setenv attr_val ad9364
After typing the 'reboot' command then the SSH connection will break -- as expected.
6. Power cycle the device by unplugging the USB cable, wait a few seconds, and then re-connect the USB cable. Your PlutoSDR device is now ready to use again with enhanced scanning capabilities.
Rational Waves supports 5 RF spectrum analyzers -- RF Explorer, RTLSDR, Pluto SDR, Signal Hound and HackRF. Each device requires its own software drivers. The setup program for Rational Waves attempts to make installation of these drivers as easy as possible. Below is a brief description and summary:
There are a variety different RF Explorer models and they all use the same software driver. When you run the Rational Waves setup program and choose the option to install the driver software for RF Explorer then it will complete the installation. If you run into any difficulties or if Rational Waves doesn't detect your RF Explorer device, then you may find this link from the RF Explorer team helpful: Troubleshooting USB Drivers in Windows
The Rational Waves setup program uses the Zadig utility (http:\//zadig.akeo.ie/) to install drivers for RTLSDR analyzers. RTLSDR devices are different than other USB devices -- before drivers can be installed the device must first be attached to your PC's USB port. Once the RTLSDR device is attached and the Zadig utility has been launched then select 'Bulk-In, Interface (Interface 0)' or 'RTL 2832U' from the drop-down list of available devices.
When you run the Rational Waves setup program and choose the option to install the driver software for Pluto SDR then it will load and run two utility programs -- the Libiio Setup Wizard and the PlutoSDR Setup Wizard.
Signal Hound -- SA Models
When you run the Rational Waves setup program and choose the option to install the driver software for 'Signal Hound SA Models' then it will load and run the FTDI CDM Driver Setup Wizard.
Signal Hound -- BB60C
The software drivers required by the model BB60C are downloaded and installed along with Signal Hound's Spike application software. Here is a link:
Similar to RTLSDR, the Rational Waves setup program uses the Zadig utility (http:\//zadig.akeo.ie/) to install drivers for HackRF. HackRF is different than other USB devices in that before drivers can be installed the device must first be attached to your PC's USB port. Once the HackRF device is attached and the Zadig utility has been launched then select 'HackRF One' from the drop-down list of available devices.
Antennas have unique qualities and are very specific for a particular frequency range. You can not attach just any antenna to an RF spectrum analyzer and expect good or, even, acceptable, performance. If the antenna you are using doesn't match with your application then you will fail.
Most low-cost RF spectrum analyzers use an SMA connector for attaching external antennas and, fortunately, these are relatively inexpensive -- e.g. under $20 USD. Antenna connectors have a male / female gender -- as long as you get that part right and choose one that matches the frequency range of your application then you'll be fine. In fact, you might even consider purchasing several and testing which one works best with your RF spectrum analyzer and within your RF environment. You should also be aware that location, position and orientation play an important role since radio waves bounce off of walls and other objects.
Rational Waves supports several RF spectrum analyzers -- some come with antennas and others do not. Manufacturers are generally reluctant to include antennas with their RF spectrum analyzers because (a) antennas are very specific for frequency range, (b) antennas must match with your particular application, (c) every user's application is different, and (d) the manufacturer has no clue about your particular application. Below is the current state of affairs along with some recommendations:
The best of the bunch. The RF Explorer team and manufacturer (SeeedStudio) went out of their way to help make sure their device was useful out-of-the-box. The Combo models include 2 or 3 antennas that cover a broad frequency range.
The RTLSDR USB dongle usually includes a built-in antenna that is "good enough" for monitoring frequencies in the UHF band.
Includes two of the worst little antennas we've ever seen -- why did they bother? The ADALM Pluto is an amazing device that reaches to 6 GHz and half the price of HackRF and RF Explorer. You definitely need to supply your own antenna(s) otherwise the device is practically useless.
Does not include any antennas -- you are on your own.
Includes an antenna that is "good enough" for certain applications. You should consider purchasing another that you know better matches your frequency range and application.