Getting Started with SDR and HackRF One (Windows Based)

HackRF One From Great Scott Gadgets

Getting started with Software Defined Radio (SDR) has never been easier thanks to GNU Radio and the various SDRs available. I have decided to start learning about SDR using the ‘HackRF One’ from Great Scott Gadgets (link).

I am following along with the Great Scott Gadgets website tutorials put on by
Michael Ossmann. I have just completed the first set of code and instruction video. My particular notes are below on getting started with Windows, GNU Radio and my source code.

After the installation steps in the list above, it is as easy as opening up GNU Radio Companion and following the steps laid out by Michael to create your first FM Radio.

GNU Radio Companion
FM Tuner with Band Visualization GUI.

The only major hiccup that I found was that in the demonstration was that his sample rate was 20M s/sec, this was much too fast for my PC and had issues keeping up. Once I turned down the sampling rate down to 10M s/sec the tuner was crystal clear and worked great.

FM Tuner with Spectrum Visualization and Variable Tuning

More to come as I complete future lessons and eventually start listening to the ham radio bands and use this to modify my low cost radar project.

Uncategorized Hackerbox #0020 Build

I have been a subscriber to for quite some time, however, I typically just get their boxes every month, review the contents and set it aside for another ‘not so busy day.’

Today I decided to pull out an older box, the ‘Summer Camp’ Badge box.  This box has you build an program an ESP32 connected to a TFT, 5 neopixels, cap touch buttons printed on the board, a lipo battery charger and a buzzer.  The board builds in about 30 minutes, and takes about 30 more to setup the IDE and test all of the functions.  A photo of my build running is below, it is scanning all of the SSIDs that it can see and displaying them to the TFT.

Hackerboxes Box 0020 Build

The notes from instructables do leave out a few key things that I will list below for anyone else working through this tutorial and having issues:

1.) You will need to get and install the following Arduino libraries from github (remember to restart the Arduino IDE after adding new libraries to the ./Arduino/libraries folder:

2.) When you install the ESP32 tool suite from github, you will need to select the ‘ESP32 Dev Module’ as your board.  The instructions are fairly straight forward, the biggest thing to remember to do after you clone the repository to your ./Arduino/hardware directory is to run the ‘get.exe’ command to install the ESP32 tools in the Arduino IDE.

Next Steps:

Next I will be adding the ability to do the following from a web interface:

1.) Change the text on the TFT

2.) Set the NeoPixels

3.) Play sounds on the Buzzer

The ultimate goal will be to use an ESP32 module on my own board to control above and under cabinet neopixel strings that can be controlled via a webapp.

*More to come!


1969 Firebird Tail Light Update

We have mounted the tail light PCBs into the enclosures using standoffs and stainless steel hardware.  We also used 16 AWG automotive grade wire using the original color code that the car used from the factory.  As can be seen in the photos below the new lights are incredibly bright and will serve the car well.

The only modification that we will be making to the lights is the driving light intensity.  It turns out that we are not dimming the LEDs enough when just the marker lights (or driving lights) are on.  We used a decade resistance box to try different values and found that 10 Ohms dimmed the lights sufficiently.  We will use a 10 Ohm high power resistor inline with the driving lights to dim them to the appropriate level.




Mechanical Projects

Sewing Desk Design / Build

I designed and built a sewing desk for my wife using components found at the local Lowe’s Home Improvement Store.  The desk design started by finding the base (made out of shelving units), drawing up the desk in SketchUp and purchasing the rest of the components (which can be found in the BOM below).

The base of desk was built out of three shelving units in the photo below from Lowe’s.  Which at the time were 25% off the price listed here.  Once we decided that we were going to use these and 3/4″ MDF for the surface all that was left to do was to design the structure in sketch-up, come up with the BOM, and build the desk.20170217_193827

To make the desk have more structure I designed in a 2×4 frame that went under the MDF top.  This frame helps to not only give more height to the work surface (kind of like how counter tops are made), it also stiffens up the work surface, and gives somewhere for the screws to attach to from the inside of the shelving units without penetrating the top.

The model can be found on my github (link at end of page) account along with the bill of material as an excel file if anyone wants to modify it.  I took a screen capture of the model below, there is much more detail for the sewing machine shelf and the 2×4 frame not really shown here:


Jill and I worked on the design features and spent about a day making sure that this design met all of her requirements.  One of her biggest requirements was that the desk height be ~36″ off the ground so that it was easy to use a standard office chair with it.  The other was the dropped shelf for the sewing machine and the location of it.  The shelf was designed to fit her sewing machine with a small gap around it for running power and control wire but leaving the top of the sewing machine deck flush with the work surface.

After the design was completed I finished up the BOM (shown below) so that we could make one trip to Lowe’s and have the top cut there rather than bringing it back.

Line Number Item Qty Notes Price Ext Cost
1 1-in x 2-in x 8-ft 1
2 1-in x 4-in x 8-ft 1
3 2-in x 4-in x 8-ft 4
4 74″ x 46″ 3/4 MDF 1 Cut to Size
5 2″ Construction Screws 100
6 Liquid Nails 2
7 ClosetMaid 670675 3 63.98 191.94

After everything was purchased and the MDF top was cut to size at Lowe’s (a service that they provide for free), construction started.  The total build time was roughly 2 hours, Jill finished up the paint and final finish after it was installed in the basement.

Below are a couple photos of the build process:

The goals of the entire design were the following:

1.) To have a large surface area for work (~36″ from the floor)

2.) To have a recessed sewing machine shelf built in the top work surface

3.) To have LOTS of storage space (hence the shelves as the base)

4.) To not break the bank for construction costs

Lessons learned:

  1. The edge between the 2×4 base and the MDF top left a gap because of the rolled edge of the 2×4.
    1.  If building again we would have used some sort of edging around the sides to hide this gap, we ended up using a ton of wood filler and then sanding it down to make it flat.
  2. The shelf for the sewing machine should have been a little tighter in terms of gap around the machine.


All of the files used to design and create this desk can be found here:



Electronics Projects

1969 Firebird ProStreet LED Taillights


My brother built a 1969 ProStreet Firebird (shown in the photo above).  He has asked that I create some LED taillights to make this street legal.  Below are photos of the housing that he had modified when turning it into a track car (he cut off the metal housings).  I have both housings in the shop, but they are symmetric and not really worth taking the space to show here.

1969 Firebird Taillight Exterior

1969 Firebird Taillight Interior.jpg

So after researching some LEDs, working on a few designs and using a couple of online tools I came up with a prototype design.  First, I started by selecting a red and white narrow beam, high intensity LED.  I choose a CREE  CP42B-RKS-CL0P0AA4 for the red led and a CREE CP41B-WGS-CK0P0154 for the white led.  The specs of these LEDs are below:


Voltage – Forward (Vf) (Typ) 2.5V
Current – Test 70mA
Viewing Angle 120°
Mounting Type Through Hole

White CREE CP41B-WGS-CK0P0154:

Voltage – Forward (Vf) (Typ) 3.6V
Current – Test 30mA
Viewing Angle 90°
Mounting Type Through Hole

I sketched out the dimensions of the taillights and calculated the number of LEDs and placement of each of the LEDS using DraftSight (an AutoCAD clone):


DraftSight screen capture to space the LEDs properly.

I found that we could save a PCB print if we simply flipped one side over since the housings are symmetric.  To calculate / design the LED networks with resistors I used an online tool to give me a quick solution.  The tool I used was you can see the results of their design below:


Screen capture of web based design tool.

I ended up using these values for the BRAKE function of the taillights.  I then computed the 50% power version for the PARKING function of the taillights and used a 1N4001 Rectifier diode to allow for the dual brightness function.

I drew the schematics for the lights in MultiSim, you can see the RED section below…  The WHITE section is very similar and can be downloaded on my GIT repository (there is a link at the end of this)…


Screen capture of the Red Section of the Taillights from MultiSIM.

If you would like a more clear (or actual print of this schematic, please feel free to contact me).

I did breadboard these just to make sure the brightness looked right and that everything worked okay.  The breadboard worked great, as did the breadboard for the White reverse lights as well.

At this point I went and laid out both the RED board and the WHITE board, you can see the result below.  To place each of the mounting holes and the LEDs I used the Import tool to bring in the DXF file.


Red Portion of the Taillights


White Portion of the Taillights

At this point, I checked and rechecked the layout, it came time to order all of the parts, which I did from both Mouser and DigiKey.  I also ordered the boards from  I spec’d the following:


Within a week I received the boards, and they turned out great.  See the image below:


Unpopulated LEDs from

Once I got these boards in I assembled them, starting with the through hole resistors and then I moved on to the LEDs on each panel.


Assembled PCBs.

Below you can see the testing results:


Testing the RED LED board section.


Testing the WHITE LED board section.

Now, the boards are complete and tested.  They function great, and are now ready to final assembly.  I will post again once I finish the wiring and mounting of the boards in the housings.


Test fitting the PCBs into the housings.

As promised, you can find all of the design files on my GIThub account here: