KiwiSDR Operating Information

Updated 22 April 2017


Introduction:


For owners / admins:
For everyone:

How it works

The KiwiSDR is always accessed over a network connection using a browser running on another computer or mobile device. This can be from your local network or by anyone on the Internet if you have chosen to make your KiwiSDR publicly available. The user interface is not currently optimized for mobile devices and there are no mobile apps yet for Android or iOS. The software does not support attaching a monitor or keyboard/mouse directly to the Kiwi BeagleBone.

Connect to the local network using an Ethernet cable between the Kiwi and your Ethernet switch, router, cable modem or firewall. An IP address for the Ethernet port is usually assigned by a DHCP server that is likely to already be running on your network. See the network configuration section for complete details.

Please consider making your Kiwi publicly available to Internet users by listing it on sdr.hu Particularly if your Kiwi is located in an interesting or under-represented part of the world. There are options for limiting public access to a subset of the four available channels.



List of third-party extensions and software packages

Here is a list of Kiwi extensions and related software packages available from third parties.
When installed the extensions will appear in the Kiwi extensions menu.

Extensions:
Software packages:

Installing the KiwiSDR and software

This additional Quick Start Guide gives information about: A printed copy of this guide is included in every KiwiSDR shipping box.



Network configuration


New Automatic setup of network configuration
In certain circumstances you may not have to do any network configuration at all. The Kiwi will just work out-of-the-box after you plug into the local network. There are two cases.
First case, local only use:
It is likely your local network already has a DHCP server that will automatically assign an IP address to the Kiwi. This function is usually performed by your network firewall / router. The kiwisdr.local hostname resolves to this IP address via software on the Kiwi and the host computer you're connecting from (the one running your browser). But the kiwisdr.local hostname may not be recognised by all systems, particularly Windows. For a workaround to this problem, or if you need to specify the IP address manually (e.g. 192.168.1.10:8073), see below for how to find your Kiwi's IP address.

Second case, public access:
Beginning with release v1.65 of the Kiwi software your router can be contacted by the Kiwi using the Universal Plug-and-Play (UPnP) protocol and asked to open port 8073 automatically. Not all routers support this protocol, or have it enabled by default. This Kiwi feature is designed to save you from perforing this task manually which can sometimes be difficult if you are not familiar with Network Address Translation (NAT) rules and the operation of your router.

For security reasons this feature is disabled on the Kiwi by default. To activate, go to the network tab on the admin page (e.g. kiwisdr.local:8073/admin) and set the button called Auto add NAT rule on firewall / router? to "yes". Then click the server restart button when it appears. When you return to the network tab after the restart a message should say:
Automatic add of NAT rule on firewall / router: succeeded
If there is a different message in any other color the automatic add didn't work and you'll have to add an appropriate NAT rule for port 8073 (or another port you've configured) to your router manually.

Finding the Ethernet IP address of the KiwiSDR
Figuring out the IP address assigned to your KiwiSDR is the first step in manual network configuration. In most network setups a DHCP server on your router, modem or firewall will assign this IP address to the Ethernet port on the Beagle of your KiwiSDR. The problem is figuring out what this address is. Here are some suggestions.

The network information about your KiwiSDR is available on the "network" tab at kiwisdr.local:8073/admin But this method may not always work.

Most versions of Windows don't recognize the kiwisdr.local hostname. Here is a work-around. If you install Apple iTunes for Windows then the Apple Bonjour mDNS-based location discovery software gets installed. Now kiwisdr.local should be recognized. It is possible to uninstall iTunes but leave Bonjour/mDNS working with the right Windows control-panel manipulation. We understand that future versions of Windows may include mDNS by default. So try using kiwisdr.local before using the workaround.

You can also try the auto-discovery scanner at kiwisdr.com/scan to find KiwiSDRs on your local network. The scanner requires your browser to support the HTML5 WebRTC protocol. This only works with modern browsers.

There are also third-party network scanner apps. We use one called Fing for the iPhone / iPad. Look for an entry where the Ethernet MAC address vendor has decoded to "Texas Instruments". TI is the manufacturer of the processor chip on the BeagleBone where the Ethernet controller resides.

Of course your router, or other device running DHCP, knows the IP address allocated to the Kiwi. If you know how to access this device you might be able to determine the latest "new" device added to the DHCP list and hence the IP address.

Allowing public access on port 8073
For the public to connect, your KiwiSDR must answer on port 8073 at a fixed public IP address. Although any port number, e.g. 80, can be configured (see below). If you are on a residential network a single public IP address is sometimes shared by multiple computers, usually via Network Address Translation (NAT). You must modify the NAT configuration of your router, modem or firewall to route connections to port 8073 of your public IP address to whatever local IP address was assigned to your Beagle (port mapping). To do this you'll need the network information provided using the methods described above.

The other issue is that port mapping requires the local IP address of your KiwiSDR be unchanging over time. After all, you have to enter a fixed local IP address when the port mapping entry is made. Your KiwiSDR was likely initially assigned a local IP address with DHCP (dynamic host configuration protocol) from your router, modem or firewall. DHCP does not guarantee that the same local IP address will be assigned each time the KiwiSDR is booted. To solve this problem most routers have another table to assign local IP addresses based on the unique MAC address associated with the Beagle. The MAC address is provided using the methods described above. You must then pick an unused local IP address that is outside the range of local IP addresses that DHCP uses yet still part of your local IP address space.

For example, our local network uses the address block 192.168.1.1 - 192.168.1.254 and is allocated as follows:

IP address fixed address?
192.168.1.1 yes router
192.168.1.2 start of DHCP allocated space
192.168.1.99 end of DHCP allocated space
192.168.1.100 yes web server
192.168.1.101 yes public KiwiSDR
192.168.1.102 yes development KiwiSDR

The port mapping and fixed IP tables are then setup in the router as follows:

NAT port mapping:
public
IP address
port maps
to
private
IP address
port service
103.26.16.225 80 ----> 192.168.1.100 80 web server
103.26.16.225 8073 ----> 192.168.1.101 8073 public KiwiSDR

fixed IP assignment:
local
IP address
Beagle MAC host
192.168.1.100 1C:BA:8C:A1:BE:EF web server
192.168.1.101 84:EB:18:E2:0E:A2 public KiwiSDR
192.168.1.102 1C:BA:8C:E3:3D:0B development KiwiSDR


Configuring an Ethernet static IP address
If you are unable if get your router to associate the Beagle Ethernet MAC to a fixed local IP then there is an alternative. It is now possible to configure the Kiwi to use a static local IP address rather than obtaining one via DHCP. You'll have to get initial access to the Kiwi using one of the methods above. But then you can go to the admin page (e.g. kiwisdr.local:8073/admin) and then the network tab and change from DHCP mode to a static IP appropriate for your local network. The Kiwi Beagle will use this IP address on the Ethernet interface when next booted.

Using a USB network connection
If your network is very limited and has no DHCP server at all you can get initial access to the Kiwi by using a USB cable between the Kiwi Beagle and another computer as the network connection (micro-USB for BeagleBone Green, mini-USB for BeagleBone Black). This is a standard feature of the Beagle and instructions are available here. Note that it requires the installation of a USB networking driver on your computer. Once logged into the Beagle root account using the SSH (Linux) or PuTTY (Windows) program setup a static address for the Ethernet interface by editing the file /etc/network/interfaces on the Beagle. Change the entry for eth0 from using DHCP to using a static address. Use the entry for usb0 a guide.

Using a serial connection
As a last resort it is possible to connect a serial cable between the Beagle and a host computer. You'll need to purchase a USB-to-serial cable that is designed to connect to the Beagle serial port header. More information is here. Be certain to buy a cable that presents 3.3V to the Beagle and not 5V (the 5V cables are more common). You'll need to remove the Kiwi board in order to access the Beagle's serial header. Use a serial com program to login to the Beagle at 115.2k baud as the root user with no password. Then edit the file /etc/network/interfaces and change the configuration of the eth0 (Ethernet) interface from dhcp to static. Use the settings for usb0 at the end of the file as a guide.

Point-to-point Ethernet connection to a host computer
Some users simply want to install an Ethernet cable between the Kiwi and a laptop or PC and not involve other equipment like switches/routers/firewalls and not involve the Internet. This might be because they are traveling or only have a wireless connection between their PC and an Internet access device that has no Ethernet ports. We now have a solution for this case.

Starting with the v1.47 release the Kiwi software uses something called avahi-autoipd which takes over when the Kiwi is unable to locate a DHCP server to get an IP address for the Ethernet port. A random-but-unique link-local IP address in the 169.254.0.0/16 range is then assigned to the Ethernet. Similar software present on all modern Macs and PCs does the same thing. Now the PC and Kiwi should be able to talk to each other. Since you don't know what IP address has been assigned to the Kiwi you instead use the name kiwisdr.local. On PCs this currently requires the Bonjour/mDNS package to be installed with the workaround described here. Macs are already setup. So now you can connect to the Kiwi by using kiwisdr.local:8073/ and kiwisdr.local:8073/admin to administrate.

Note that it takes
more than 60 seconds
after the Kiwi boots before it decides there is no DHCP and it should assign a link-local address. So please be patient before trying to connect from the PC.

A question remains however. If your PC only has a wireless connection to the Internet, and your new Kiwi was delivered with an installed software version prior to v1.47 (which is going to be true for quite a while) and you can only plug the Kiwi into the PC, then what can you do? The answer is to download a special version of the Kiwi software from the Internet onto your PC. Then copy it to a micro-SD card. And finally re-flash the Kiwi on-board filesystem from the sd card. Follow the instructions here.



KiwiSDR configuration from the admin webpage

Almost all configuration and administration of the KiwiSDR is done through the admin web interface at kiwisdr.local:8073/admin (adjust hostname as required). Each tab at the top of the page selects a group of related configuration parameters or status information. A restart button for the server will appear when certain parameters are changed. Use it when you have made all of your changes in all of the tabs.

Control

Restart, reboot and power off
The status tab has restart, reboot and power off buttons. Restart can be used when the server is behaving oddly. Reboot of Debian can be done if the system has been running for many days or weeks and seems to have problems that might be Linux related. It is especially important to use the power off button before removing power from the Kiwi as this first halts Debian in a safe fashion that will prevent any possible filesystem corruption.

The Kick button can be used to close all active user connections (i.e. kick everyone off the SDR). This is useful when there are users who have been logged in for a very long period of time. The Inactivity timeout field described below can be used to limit connection times.

Config

The sensitivity of your antenna will determine how the base waterfall colors will appear. We suggest changing the Initial waterfall min field to compensate. Here is an example of base waterfall colors that are "washed out" with too much green because the default value of WF min on the main control panel is too low at -110 dBFS: (click for larger)



Here is the same waterfall with WF min set to -80 dbFS: (click for larger)



Once you have found a good value of WF min set that value in the Initial waterfall min field on the Config tab of the admin webpage.

The Inactivity timeout field can be used to limit the amount of time a user can be connected when not actively changing the SDR controls (i.e. parked on a specific frequency for a long period of time). The timeout period is reset as soon as some adjustment to the controls is made. A value of zero disables any timeout checking. This is the default.

The Max receiver frequency menu allows the top reception frequency to be increased to 32 MHz. This is to accomodate some users who want to down-convert signals into the 30 - 32 MHz region. Note that due to the KiwiSDR ADC clock frequency (66.67 MHz) there will be increased aliasing and spurious responses above 30 MHz.

Webpage

Map field
Note: Consider specifying coordinates that don't reveal your exact location. You can get the "Google format" map reference by Googling the name of your location (town etc.), clicking on Google maps from the search result, then clicking on the "share or embed map" item from the Google maps menu at the top left. Place in the Map field the last part of the link that begins with "https://www.google.co.nz/maps/place/" You can use the check map button to verify.

Grid square field
If you are not familiar with grid squares just click on the check grid button. A webpage will appear where you can enter your location name and receive a 6 character grid square identifier to enter in the field.

You can replace the default startup background photo with your own. Scale a photo file (jpeg, png, etc.) to be 350 pixels high. Starting with the v1.17 release there is a "file chooser" dialog so you can download the file to the Kiwi directly using the admin page. Although there is a Photo height field, changing it from 350 pixels currently doesn't work. Change the Photo title and Photo description fields as appropriate for your new photo.

The Owner info field allows you to display a message, including HTML, in the middle part of the top bar. Add your own logo here, short message or maybe a Paypal donation button to help defray your Internet costs for a publicly-accessible Kiwi.

Note that the Title field can contain HTML, like a link, just like the Status field even though there is no preview shown.

sdr_hu

Note: Consider specifying coordinates that don't reveal your exact location, although the map on sdr.hu adds some dither to the location when zoomed-in as a privacy measure.

Also note that we at KiwiSDR do not run the sdr.hu website. It is administrated by our friends at the OpenWebRX project on whose software our user interface is based.

Registration on sdr.hu
On the sdr.hu tab are the parameters for sdr.hu registration. To obtain an API key go to sdr.hu/register and fill-out the form. You will be emailed a key to be entered into the API key field. Change the other parameters and set the display? question to yes. Then click the server restart button when ready.

Make sure your location on the sdr.hu/map shows the correct latitude and longitude. A common mistake is not specifying a negative longitude for the Americas or a negative latitude for locations in the southern hemisphere (we've made this mistake). You can use the check map button to verify. If you zoom in on the map you'll notice that sdr.hu dithers the location a fair amount to help protect your privacy.

If the GPS is running and has a fix a blue button labeled set from GPS will appear. Use it to fill-out the location field automatically. The same is true for the grid square field.

If your Kiwi doesn't appear on sdr.hu after some time check the admin Log tab for an error message.

Duplicate entries on sdr.hu

There is currently a bug that can cause duplicate entries to be listed for your KiwiSDR. Here's how it happens. If you first register with a numeric IP address, e.g. server_url = "1.2.3.4" then later setup a DNS name that points to the same IP address, e.g. server_url = "kiwisdr.mydomain.com" there is a problem. sdr.hu will list entries for both the numeric IP address and DNS name. The old numeric entry will never timeout and be removed because the new DNS entry resolves to the same IP address. So if you're going to use a DNS name try to set that up from the very beginning. The problem can be worked around by using a different port number for the second entry, i.e. if the numeric entry used port 8073 then by using port 8074 with the DNS entry sdr.hu will treat them independently and the inactive numeric entry will be removed. You'll note that this is how some sites support multiple independent SDRs. They use the same DNS name or IP address but each SDR operates on a different port number. Also note that you could still present port 8073 as the KiwiSDR port to the Internet. Some NAT implementations allow the inside and outside port numbers to be different, i.e. Internet port 8073 could be setup to map to port 8074 on your local network.

To use a port other than 8073 you must change the internal/external port field in the network tab and restart. A differing value in these two fields allows you to use different port numbers externally on the Internet versus internally on your local network. Of course the NAT rule in your router would have to reflect this situation.

sdr.hu security requirements

For security reasons sdr.hu requires that the domain name you use (if any) must resolve to the same source IP address as registration traffic coming from the Kiwi. This is usually the case. But a few users have encountered problems when unusual dynamic DNS or VPN configurations are used and the IP addresses are different. There is a forum topic that has some details.

Extensions

WSPR
If you don't have a Ham radio callsign, but would like to contribute your Kiwi's WSPR decodes to wsprnet.org, set the Reporter callsign field to something like "SWLRF82". Where "SWL" is the well-known abbreviation for "shortwave listener" and "RF82" is a 4-character grid square describing your Kiwi's general location available from this site. There are other conventions as well, e.g. "SWL/ZL" where "ZL" is a Ham radio callsign prefix for New Zealand.

Security

Public/private channels
On the admin security tab you will find a setting allowing you to disable the password prompt for a subset of the 4 channels (none, 1, 2 or 3) when an overall user password has been set. This allows you to divide the 4 channels into two sets: a publicly-available set requiring no password and a private set requiring a password. Owners of the more popular Kiwis have long complained that the channels are always full and they, or their friends, can never get in without restarting the server and dumping everyone off. It is hoped this feature may persuade some owners of completely closed Kiwis in desirable locations to make some of their channels public.



Controlling the server from a Beagle root login

Although most of the control and configuration of the server is accomplished via the admin webpage, there are some shell commands that can be used. Login to the Beagle from another computer as the root user. On another computer use the SSH program with Linux, or PuTTY on Windows. Change to the Beagle_SDR_GPS directory. A shortcut for this is the cdp command alias (change directory project). Once there a number of commands can be used to control the server: Most of these features as also available on the admin webpage. For example the log files can be viewed under the Log tab and the server can restarted with a button on the Control tab.



Optionally downloading the software

This procedure is normally not necessary since each KiwiSDR comes with a micro-SD card containing all the software. In addition, if your Kiwi includes a BeagleBone Green (BBG) the software is already pre-installed on the BBG. However there are cases where you might want to download the software: your micro-SD card doesn't work or you want to get a head-start on installing the software if you've ordered just the Kiwi board and are supplying your own Beagle.

In case you are unfamiliar with the process of installing software on a Beagle here's how it works. The micro-SD is what's known as a 'flasher'. Each time you boot your Beagle from the micro-SD card it will copy its contents to the on-board flash memory (eMMC) of your Beagle. In other words all the software previously installed on your Beagle will be
completely overwritten and lost
. So be very careful in using a flasher micro-SD. Remember, the copy operation will only occur when you boot from a micro-SD flasher. It is possible to insert a flasher micro-SD into a running system so that it may be read or re-written like any other card. But be certain to remove it immediately after you're done. Otherwise the next time you reboot the Beagle the flashing operation might begin (if the card is still a flasher). Even we make this mistake occasionally and it is very annoying to lose your work that is stored on the Beagle's on-board filesystem.

So now an image file from the Internet must be downloaded and copied to a micro-SD card to turn it into a flasher. This can be done on the Beagle itself running whatever version of Debian Linux happens to be installed. It is also possible to use programs on Macs and PCs that write image files to micro-SD cards. Proceed as follows. After you have an SD card with the flasher image insert it into the Beagle and power-up. When booted from the SD card the LEDs will display a "back-and-forth" pattern as the image is copied to the Beagle on-board filesystem. The Beagle will power off when done (all LEDs will go dark). Takes about 5 minutes for a Class-10 SD card. IMPORTANT: Remove the micro-SD card when finished.

Your Beagle now has the KiwiSDR version of Debian installed and a version of the KiwiSDR server software itself. When the KiwiSDR server is first run it will automatically update itself to the latest version by downloading from Github since the download image is always a bit older than the most current version.

† Note that if you have an older Beagle running the Angstrom distribution, instead of the more recent Debian, this script won't work. Use the micro-SD delivered with your Beagle or follow the various guides on the Internet showing how to upgrade your Beagle to Debian first.



Viewing the source code change log

To see the comments from recent changes to the source code look at the Github change log. If any comment there is followed by an ellipsis box (...) click on it for more information about the change.



Filing and viewing bug reports

To see and file bug reports look at the Github issues page. The master bug/wish list is also now online.



KiwiSDR discussion forum

There is a KiwiSDR-specific discussion forum over on the Valent F(x) website.



Power supply advice

Be careful when using precision bench supplies

Be sure to set the current limit high enough (>= 2A) to catch the peak current requirements of the Kiwi and Beagle. A precision supply will react much more quickly to over-current situations than an ordinary linear supply using a big output capacitor to ride through peak current demand. A bench supply will instantly drop the output voltage the moment the current limit is reached. We've had several users observe bizarre behavior using precision supplies (random Beagle shutdown, SD card write failures, repeatable server "freeze" during certain operations, etc.)

Under-voltage due to cable voltage drop

The power management controller chip (PMIC) on the Beagle will refuse to power up the Beagle and Kiwi if the 5V input is below about 4.75V. Worse, if a momentary increase in peak current draw causes the input to drop below 4.75V due to losses in the cable the Beagle will unexpectedly power down. This problem has been seen by several customers and even ourselves. It is caused by cables with insufficient wire gauge. See this forum post.

Using a quiet linear power supply to power the KiwiSDR / Beagle will significantly reduce received noise, particularly on the LF/MF bands. This is because almost all of these small line-powered units are switch-mode power supplies (SMPS) with inadequate filtering. The switching frequencies are typically in the 20 - 170 kHz range with harmonics sometimes extending well into the shortwave bands. Worse, the oscillators are almost always unregulated resulting in unstable carriers many kHz wide. Their emissions might meet regulatory requirements but that doesn't stop them from wrecking havoc when used to directly power an SDR. Check out this interesting article comparing the emissions and safety of common 5V USB SMPS chargers.

Transformer-based, regulated linear supplies are now more difficult to find. Particularly the wall-mount (plug-pack) type. This is partly due to new energy conservation laws requiring higher standby-mode efficiency from power supplies. It's pretty easy to make an SMPS draw minimal current when plugged-in but not in use. But it's difficult for a transformer-based supply due to the unloaded losses present in the transformer even when there is no connection. There is also the issue of poor conversion efficiency compared to SMPS.

We have tested two classes of linear supplies with good results:
There is a group of people who care about quiet power supplies for their digital devices: the audiophile community. And for this purpose there are transformer-based, 5V linear supplies available on Ebay and AliExpress. We have evaluated one of these units and it worked great. All have IEC 60320 C14-style AC input connectors so you can use a mains cord specific to your region. The one is a little expensive but the transformer can be strapped for 115 or 230 volts. It's an open-frame supply with all connections via solder lugs so you must add your own cables. Consider cutting off the cable with a 2.1mm circular connector from an old, crappy wall-mount supply you have lying around. For a line cord with a region-specific plug you can scavenge from old equipment or sacrifice a cheap extension cord (i.e. cut the receptacle end off and just use the plug and cable). Please add an inline fuse to your line cable (we did!) And insulate all line-voltage connections, particularly at the transformer. When dealing with line voltages please be careful, go slow, don't work alone and ask for help if you need it. We don't want any fatalities or injuries as a result of advice given here.
Note: we no longer recommend the Jameco supply due to multiple customer failures.

The failures usually go like this: The supply runs fine for several months but then the Kiwi no longer powers up. With the Kiwi board removed the Beagle alone works fine. So people conclude the Kiwi board is bad and this causes all sort of headaches for us. In fact there is nothing wrong with the Kiwi board. The power supply is simply no longer able to supply the necessary current and the output voltage drops below the required minimum at power up time. The exact failure mode is unknown.

This one looks like a wall-mount SMPS but has a transformer and linear regulation. A couple of users have reported failures after running one for a while. Supplying only 1A it is being pushed to the limit. But the price is certainly right. The transformer only supports 115VAC (no 240V) and has a flat-blade plug (i.e. USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan etc.) If anyone finds something similar for 240V please let us know! Note that the 2.5mm plug is technically not compatible with the 2.1mm jack on the KiwiSDR. But in practice it seems to work. However if you are having problems consider changing the plug type to get the correct diameter.



Antenna advice

Many of the Kiwi beta sites use simple wire antennas (dipoles, verticals, etc.) with good results (although LF/VLF usually suffers unless an active antenna is used). As with noise reduction, experimentation with antennas is usually an incremental process. If you are new to antenna building then start with a simple random wire. You will hear something. Then you can try a more complex antenna and see how much improvement there is.

We are still working on our own open-source active antenna / bias-tee design which we'd like to sell at some point. There are many commercial sources for E-field (whip, probe) and H-field (loop) active antennas. Here are some in no particular order: Clifton Laboratories is no longer in business, but their Z1501D active antenna is legendary if you can find one.

There are a number of active antennas, both kits and pre-built, on Ebay. Most are based on the design of the PA0RDT Mini-Whip.

It is also not that difficult to construct your own. Our work is based on the designs of Chris Trask, N7ZWY, of Sonoran Radio Research: Complementary Push-Pull Amplifiers for Active Antennas

Articles about active antennas including advice about grounding of unbalanced (coax) and balanced feedlines:
The Seeed Bazaar sells relatively inexpensive SMA adapters: We used this inexpensive 3.3V GPS active antenna during our development.



ADC overload

The top right of the S-meter shows a red "OV" indicator when ADC overflow/overload is detected. Tests with a signal generator show the ADC overflows when a single-tone exceeding -15 dBm (almost S9+60) appears on the antenna terminals.

If you're in Europe be careful about ADC overload in the early evening from the gigantic SWBC transmitters nearby. It can also occur from very strong local AM MW BCB signals. Use a smaller antenna or an inline attenuator if necessary. An attenuator can be as simple as a low-value potentiometer. Sure, the pot won't maintain a 50 ohm impedance like a proper Pi-network, but this is not critical. Adjust the pot until the overall waterfall noise floor drops to normal under high-signal conditions (roughly -100 to -130 dBFS shown on the spectrum display when fully zoomed in on a quiet frequency). Or until the "OV" indicator no longer shows.

One user cleverly notes that since the SMA and terminal block inputs are in parallel if you are connecting the antenna via the SMA connector you can place a swamping resistor or pot across the terminal block.

Martin, G8JNJ, has an excellent article on constructing simple series-tuned shunt filters to attenuate specific problem frequencies.

Our friends at RTL-SDR.com are now selling an inexpensive broadcast AM block high-pass filter. Note the -3 dB point is 2.6 MHz so 160m will be attenuated in addition to LF/VLF.

There are several forum topics giving details about the OV indicator and MW band attenuation ( here, here, and here) including excellent work by Jim, WA2ZKD.

The images below show severe overload from two extremely strong signals on 720 and 810 kHz (exceeding -20 dBm, S9+53) in the AM broadcast band from a Kiwi located in a major city. Note the harmonics of the BCB extending into HF and the raised noise floor from all the reciprocal mixing. Zooming you'll find mixing products every 9 or 10 kHz up and down the band from VLF to 30 MHz (9/10 depends on regional BCB station spacing). The existing antenna is necessary for adequate HF reception so some sort of BCB filtering will be necessary. Click on images for larger.









Noise reduction advice

Finding and reducing noise sources is an incremental process. We find it helpful to take a screenshot of the Kiwi waterfall before and after a particular noise reduction technique is tried. This will help you gauge how effective a fix is and even if a fix to one problem makes another worse.

E-field active antennas are compact and relatively easy to deploy, but are very sensitive to the local noise environment. Consider H-field loops and loopsticks as an alternative.


Mouser & Digi-Key free international shipping

Although they don't seem to advertise it, Mouser in the USA has free international shipping to many countries for orders over USD $50. So if you buy a Bel power supply and a bunch of toroids from them it can be very cost effective. We get free delivery to New Zealand in only 3-4 days. It's the best thing since sliced bread!

Digi-Key now offers the same deal.



Element14 / Embest BeagleBone

We need to mention a possible problem when using the Element14 BeagleBone with your KiwiSDR. When we first tried one about a year ago there was a very large increase (over +20 dB) in spurs and noise from the BeagleBone compared to using the original BeagleBone Black manufactured by CircuitCo or the BeagleBone Green manufactured by Seeed. We have spoken to others who had experienced similar issues trying to pass FCC certification of their cape while using the Element14 Beagle.

We tried another one more recently and there was absolutely no problem. It was just as quiet as the others. So perhaps this was just an issue with the components used in a particular early build or something. So just keep this in mind if you plan on using an older E14 you've had lying around for a while. We would have no hesitation in using one more recently manufactured.



Troubleshooting advice


FIXME -- items to add:

Warning about changing root and debian account passwords if ssh port open to Internet
Repeat of enclosure assembly instructions
Instructions for running the network scanner



User interface

Here are some aspects of the user interface that are not immediately obvious. In the descriptions below option/alt refers to the keyboard key usually marked "option" and/or "alt". Control refers to the key marked "ctrl" or "control". The "windows" key on Windows keyboards and the "command" key on Macs are not used. The "fn" (function) key is not used.

Clicking refers to left mouse button clicking. Right button or scroll-wheel clicking is specifically called out in the text to distinguish from ordinary clicking. We don't yet handle mice that have been configured for lefthand use where the button assignments are reversed (i.e. the right button functions as the left button normally would).

Touchscreen gestures (pinch-zoom, tap-to-zoom etc.) are not yet supported but are planned. There is no mobile device (small screen) interface yet.

All of these shortcut choices need to eventually be customizable by each user.


Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

  • How can I protect the input against nearby transmitters and lightning-induced voltages?
    There is a forum post about the issue of front-end protection.

  • Can I limit access to a KiwiSDR connected to the Internet?
    Yes. There is a user password, separate from the admin password, used to control access to the main SDR webpage in case you want to limit access from Internet connections. You can also choose not to list your Kiwi on sdr.hu although we encourage you to do so.

    You can also divide the 4 channels into public and private sets. A setting on the config tab controls an inactivity timeout.

  • Why are there only 4 channels? Can this be increased?
    Short answer: The digital downconversion (DDC) architecture used in the Kiwi only allows 4 channels of audio and waterfall before using up the resources of the FPGA and processing power of the Beagle. It's really an 8 channel DDC design since the waterfall is tunable independently of the audio.

    We've all been spoiled somewhat by WebSDR. We're used to the idea that modest SDR hardware (Sockrocks etc.) can support a dozen or more simultaneous connections. But the architecture and resources of those systems is very different from the Kiwi. The Kiwi is designed to be a completely self-contained, wideband (0-30 MHz), low-cost SDR not requiring any sort of external PC. In all cases with WebSDR a large part of a PC runs the FFT-based signal processing code. And the bandwidth covered by every WebSDR is relatively small: usually just a single band limited by soundcard bandwidth. The sole exception is the wideband Twente WebSDR which covers the same 0-30 MHz bandwidth as the Kiwi. But that system requires a very powerful PC with a c.a. US$1000 GPU card to process the multi-million point FFT required. It doesn't use a $39 BeagleBone Green. Sure, that system can support an astonishing 400+ simultaneous users, but you have to look at the tradeoffs. In exchange for full 0-30 MHz bandwidth on the Kiwi, at a relatively low cost, you only get 4 (8 really) DDC channels.

    That said, it is possible more clever Beagle software and FPGA firmware could allow additional channels. This remains an area for future experimentation.

  • Is there a list of all known bugs and feature requests?
    Yes, please see the master bug/wish list.

  • How do I recover from a corrupted software build?
    If you think you might have a corrupted build of the software on the Beagle proceed as follows. Login over the network to the Beagle using the root account (there is no password). From a Linux machine use the SSH program, i.e. "ssh root@kiwisdr.local". From Windows try PuTTY or something similar. Then type these commands on the Beagle:
    • cdp (change directory project) This changes to the build directory.
    • up (update) This should fetch the latest software from github.com, rebuild it, install it and restart the server.
  • Why did you put a software-defined GPS on the board?
    This is a frequent question. The short answer is that it hardly cost anything to do so. It's was almost cheaper to add the GPS front-end than upgrade the ADC XO, requiring some source of frequency correction, to a more expensive VCTCXO. Also, having constructed a prototype of Andrew Holme's Homemade GPS Receiver and having so much fun learning about the fundamentals of GPS signal processing, we wanted to offer a device you could purchase capable of running Andrew's code. There was room in our existing FPGA for the design and we ended up using parts of the GPS Verilog for the SDR (embedded processor, SPI interface).

  • Why didn't you use a stacking-style header (cape) connector to the Beagle?
    Short answer: signal integrity, cost.
    You can always place the KiwiSDR as the outer board on a cape stack. Not using a stacking connector is a combination of factors.
    Signal integrity: The SPI runs at 48 MHz. A stacking connector potentially allows a "T" of signals lines to be constructed if the KiwiSDR is in the middle of the stack. Signal reflections due to the unknown termination characteristics of the outer board could cause problems.
    Cost: There is some additional cost for a stacking connector. It may seem small but every cost has been carefully considered to keep the overall board price low. Every user will end up paying for the stacking capability that few will use. It is also more difficult for the manufacturer to solder a stacking connector.

  • How will KiwiSDRs participate in distributed applications?
    The exact mechanism used by an application that gathers data from many KiwiSDRs via custom code or FPGA changes is an open question. At the very least the configuration interface will allow an "opt-in" to whatever experiments are currently in progress. Your ideas are most welcome. Plenty of security implications too.

  • Is there an automatic software update mechanism?
    Yes, the software checks for new versions on github and pulls updates from there. You can configure whether you want: no updates, update manually or update automatically in the background. Some users operate on networks with update policy restrictions.

  • How do I know what IP address my Beagle is using?
    See the Network configuration section above for complete information.

  • How will I discover what KiwiSDRs are available for listening?
    Andras Retzler, HA7ILM, creator of OpenWebRX on which our user interface is based, has kindly allowed KiwiSDRs to register themselves on his sdr.hu site. Be sure to visit the section showing all receivers on a world map. The KiwiSDR admin configuration page (e.g. kiwisdr.local:8073/admin) allows you to specify all the receiver details shown on the site.

  • How much Internet upload bandwidth is used?
    Short answer: 40k bytes/second (320k bits/sec), all 4 channels active.

    The compressed audio takes 4.8k bytes/sec and compressed waterfall 12k at the current maximum frame rate (about 23 Hz). For 4 channels you might expect the total to be 68k (total multiplied by four) but it is only 40k bytes/sec because the waterfall slows down under the load of four simultaneous users.

  • What's the worst case daily and monthly bandwidth consumed?
    Short answer: 3.5 GB/day, 105 GB/month, all 4 channels active 24/7.

    This is simply the observed rate for all four channels active (40k bytes/sec) multiplied out to a daily and monthly value.

    There are plans to add a control mechanism to limit bandwidth consumption for users with capped Internet plans (e.g. 30GB/month). This would be done by throttling the waterfall update rate and/or maximum number of users evenly throughout the month, perhaps by having daily consumption targets.

  • Why can't I attach an HDMI monitor to the Beagle?
    Two reasons. The HDMI port, with a cable attached, is a significant source of interference to the SDR due to the fast edge rates of the signals. Ever wonder why there are 47 pF caps on the (non-differential) data lines going to the HDMI framer chip on the Beagle? Edge rate control. No doubt for sufficient emissions margin.

    Second, by leaving the window system software off the Debian distribution on the micro-SD card, it installs on the Beagle in two minutes instead of twenty. For ordinary use you shouldn't have to make a terminal connection to the Beagle via SSH. You can just use the web-based configuration interface.

  • How does access protection of the admin webpage work?
    Access control to the admin webpage and the SDR itself are handled on the Security tab of the admin webpage. By default there is no admin password set which causes attempted admin access from outside the local subnet (i.e. from the Internet) to be ignored. So by default you don't have to change anything, or assign a password, to be protected. If you don't want access by other users on your local subnet then set an admin password. But pick a good password because it can be used by anyone who has access to the Kiwi, including Internet users, to gain access to the admin webpage.

    If you are setting a password because you want to be able to administer the Kiwi from the Internet while, say, traveling, but you don't want the annoyance of having to give the password from your local subnet, then set the "Admin auto-login from local net even if password set?" option to yes. When you login with a password it is saved in a browser cookie, so this minimizes the number of times you must enter it.

  • Will running the GPS reveal my exact location?
    No. The only place the high-resolution coordinates computed by the SD-GPS are displayed is on the GPS status tab of the admin webpage. So if access to the admin webpage is properly protected the GPS location will not be available. The locations shown on the main SDR webpage and on sdr.hu are from other purely text parameters configured on the admin webpage. So they can be completely arbitrary and set to not reveal your exact location. In addition, sdr.hu dithers the locations shown on their map slightly to guarantee privacy.

    When a GPS solution has been computed a button will appear on the sdr.hu tab of the admin page allowing the location field to be filled-in as a convenience. You can subsequently edit this field to obscure the exact position. But the dithering described above done by sdr.hu will essentially do this for you.

  • Why does the Kiwi interfere with my 2 meter radio reception?
    This is a known issue that is being investigated. There is a workaround. Please see this forum thread.

  • Why does the Kiwi stop working at my remote location that gets above 40 deg C?
    We've had a report of the Kiwi shutting down when running at a remote location location where the internal building temperature exceeded 40 deg C (104 deg F). The problem stopped when there was a modest airflow applied to the Kiwi even without lowering the temperature of the building. This might also be an issue if you place the Kiwi in your own enclosure (e.g. a metal one) without cooling holes. But we have not investigated this.

  • Will there be a Raspberry Pi version of the board?
    It's a possibility, but there are so many other things to get done first. So this would be a low priority for us. You're talking about two host devices of similar low cost for an SDR that will likely just sit on a shelf someplace running 24/7. So there seems to be little advantage in offering support for multiple hosts. A second version of the KiwiSDR with different capabilities seems more interesting.

    A huge amount of work went into the BeagleBone port. The host processing required is substantial and it appears the R-Pi 3 should be powerful enough. But there is no way of knowing without doing the complete port and seeing what happens. Similarly with the performance of the I/O link between the two boards. Then there is always the risk of an unacceptable amount of self-interference (i.e. EMI/RFI) from the R-Pi to the KiwiSDR. It should be possible to prototype using the existing BeagleBone board before committing to the design of an R-Pi PCB.