An Ubuntu 20.04 virtual machine image with GNU Radio 188.8.131.52, Fosphor, GQRX, and several other useful pieces of software.
The most recent image is instant-gnuradio-184.108.40.206-1.0.0.ova and is a 3.4 GB download and 11 GB once installed and launched.
There is a torrent available: https://gnuradio.inpha.se/instant-gnuradio-220.127.116.11-1.0.0.ova.torrent
If you can't use the torrent (which would be load balancing, including using GNU Radio's server), you can also download from https://www.gnuradio.org/releases/ , but that might be slower.
The VM is built with Instant GNU Radio. If there are any issues, please report them here. You can also use the VM as a base for your own builds. See the VM, created for the GRCon workshop on satellite communications as an example.
Installing the VirtualBox Extension Pack
This is needed for USB 3 and is a requirement for running the VM, even if you are not actually going to use USB 3.
Assuming your host is running Ubuntu,
sudo apt install virtualbox-ext-pack
Or available via https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads. If downloading manually, make sure the extension pack version number matches the VirtualBox version number. Distributions do not always use the latest version. Installation is under File/Preferences/Extensions.
Importing the Image
OVA files are loaded into VirtualBox under File/Import Appliance. Use default answers to any dialogs. Once the OVA is loaded it will show up in the list of available images in VirtualBox.
Running the Image
Select the image and hit the "Start" button. Log in when prompted. The screen will start off at low resolution. Select a more useful resolution under View/Virtual Screen 1. For High DPI monitors, you may want to select a scaling factor under the same menu.
If the image fails to boot, and the error dialog "Details" mention xHCI, then the extension pack was most likely not installed correctly.
The VM uses a persistent disk image, (1) your preferences and work will be saved, and (2) it is best to shut down the VM as if it were a real computer to avoid loss of work.
GNU Radio Companion
The first icon in the app menu (the GNU Radio logo) will start GRC.
Passing Through USB Devices
Host USB devices (e.g., a RTL dongle, USRP B2xx) can be taken from the host and given to the VM. Select any devices you would like to use in the VM under Devices/USB.
Testing With a RTL Dongle
Plug a RTL dongle into the host. Select USB forwarding for "Realtek RTL ..." under Devices/USB.
Open a terminal (Terminator is the icon with 4 red boxes). Run
and make sure that the log shows the Realtek device being discovered. Now run
which should print out status, and then appear to hang. CTRL-C to stop.
The fastest way to see something interesting using a real SDR device is to run GQRX (icon that looks like a pulse). Select the RTL device from the initial dialog, or from I/O devices (second icon on the menu bar). GQRX remembers the last device and settings used. If the available devices have changed (or even appear that way in the VM), it may not start up cleanly. In this case, try it a couple of times and you should be able to select the device/setting you want.
More information on GQRX is available here: https://gqrx.dk/
Inspectrum is an easy-to-use FFT viewer for multiple file formats (determined by the file suffix). See: https://github.com/miek/inspectrum.
Universal Radio Hacker is an end-to-end RF reverse engineering tool. It can capture, demodulate, analyze and generate bursts representing digital communication. There is a bit of a learning curve due to the amount of ground it covers, but it's worth the effort. See: https://github.com/jopohl/urh.