GNU Radio Live SDR Environment

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GNU Radio Live SDR Environment

The GNU Radio Live SDR Environment, produced by Corgan Labs, is a bootable Ubuntu Linux DVD or USB drive image, with GNU Radio and third party software pre-installed. It is designed for quick and easy testing and experimentation with GNU Radio without having to make any permanent modifications to a PC or laptop. It does not, however, provide for permanent installation.

It is supplied as an ISO image to be downloaded and burned onto a recordable DVD disc or copied to a USB flash drive using a utility such as the Ubuntu Startup Disk Creator (Ubuntu Linux OS) or Unetbootin (Windows, MacOS, Linux). Creating a USB drive from the image will provide much faster booting and operation, and allow making changes and storing files. Finally, the ISO image may be booted within a virtual environment such as VirtualBox, QEMU/kvm, VMware, or Parallels.

Current Stable Release

This version of the ISO image is based on the latest stable release of GNU Radio,, and the stable releases of third party software at that time:

The use of Bittorrent reduces the load on the GNU Radio web server and lowers project bandwidth costs.

If a Bittorrent client is not available or its use is restricted, you may download the ISO image file by choosing from one of the following mirror sites:

MD5 sum:

04028362ec84b39fd50e41164a48ac11  ubuntu-14.04.5-desktop-amd64-gnuradio-

The ISO image is signed by a GNU Radio PGP key and can be validated by checking the following signature:


The livesdr image is based on Ubuntu Linux 14.04.5 LTS, 64-bit edition, and has additional software installed beyond the defaults supplied by Ubuntu.

GNU Radio

GNU Radio Release is installed on the livesdr image. You can access the GNU Radio Companion through the desktop link, or open a terminal window to execute GNU Radio applications.

Pre-Installed SDR Hardware Drivers

Drivers for these GNU Radio-compatible SDR peripherals have been pre-installed:

Each of these provides its own set of utilities and files. Please consult the manufacturers' documentation for more information.

Pre-Installed GNU Radio Applications

There are many 3rd-party applications, demos, drivers, and block libraries produced by the GNU Radio community. Below is a list of pre-installed packages that highlight some of the diverse capabilities of GNU Radio:

  • gr-osmosdr, a set of blocks supporting various hardware SDRs and applications, and related dependencies
  • gr-fosphor, a GPU-accelerated real-time spectrum analyzer display
  • gqrx, a narrowband SDR receiver application by Alexandru Csete
  • GNSS-SDR, a fully software-based GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS real time receiver
  • gr-specest, an implementation of several spectral estimation algorithms
  • OpenLTE, an open source 3GPP LTE implementation
  • gr-nacl, wrapper blocks around NaCL encryption library
  • gr-acars2
  • gr-adsb, an ADS-B modem
  • gr-ais, an AIS modem
  • gr-ax25, AX25
  • gr-burst, a burst PSK modem
  • gr-cdma, a CDMA phy
  • gr-eventstream
  • gr-gsm, blocks and tools for receiving GSM transmissions
  • gr-ieee-80211, an IEEE 802.11a/g/p transceiver
  • gr-ldpc, an implementation of generic LDPC codecs
  • gr-lte, an implementation of a 3GPP LTE receiver
  • gr-mapper, extra symbol/bit mapping tools
  • gr-paint, spectrum painting block
  • gr-radar, the GNU Radio Radar Toolbox
  • gr-rds, an implementation of broadcast FM radio RDS reception
  • gr-specest, Spectrum estimation blocks

Each of these packages has been installed using the GNU Radio PyBOMBS installation utility. Please consult the individual project sites for information on using these applications.

Using the GNU Radio Live Image

Since the operating system must use a RAM drive to simulate a hard drive, it is strongly recommended that your system have at least 4GB of RAM when using the live image.

Once a DVD has been created using the ISO image linked above, one boots directly into Linux from the DVD by inserting the DVD into a drive, rebooting the PC, and either:

  • Accessing the PC boot device menu and selecting "Boot from CD/DVD Drive" (typically by pressing F12, but may be something else), or
  • Updating the PC BIOS configuration to allow booting from DVD. The PC BIOS is typically entered by pressing F2 during startup, but this varies between systems.

The booting process, depending on the speed of the DVD drive, may take 2-3 minutes or more to complete, and will automatically log into the Ubuntu desktop screen as user 'ubuntu'. From here, you can select software to run with the mouse, or may create a terminal window using the Ctrl-Alt-T shortcut key. The logged in user can obtain administrative rights by using the 'sudo' command; it does not require a password.


  • When operating from the liveSDR image, the first time an operation is performed, the software loads from the boot media, and can appear very slow. However, at this point, the software remains cached in memory, and subsequent execution will be at normal speed.
  • It is important to ensure that once the DVD boots, that any needed network connections, audio configuration, or other hardware specific configuration is done (if needed), prior to running the included SDR applications.
  • If your CPU supports automatic frequency scaling, the DVD will boot up in "on demand" mode, which will leave the CPU at a lower frequency until system load increases. However, this process doesn't not always occur correctly. You may use the frequency scaling widget in the upper right corner in order to set a specific CPU frequency, or to set "performance" mode.

Network Configuration on the Live Image

The system has been pre-configured to use one of two network configurations when an Ethernet cable is plugged into the network port of the PC. This is accessed by clicking on the network configuration icon in the upper right configuration bar.

  • Under "Wired Network", select "Internet (DHCP assigned)" to allow the PC to obtain its network configuration from the connected LAN
  • For use with the Ettus Research USRP N- or X-series devices, choose "USRP" from the selections, which will assign the IP address of to the host PC and allow communication with the default IP configuration of a USRP. In this configuration, in order to access an external network, an alternative interface must be available, such a Wireless network or second Ethernet port.

Installation Locations on the DVD

The GNU Radio software source code, as well as the source code to other installed software, is installed in /home/ubuntu/src/, which may be browsed from the filesystem explorer or from the command line.

The GNU Radio Companion application is installed as grc on the system path, and may be run from any directory, or may be accessed directly from the desktop by clicking on the icon.

GNU Radio example applications are installed in /home/ubuntu/examples and may be run by navigating to one of the example directories and executing the python scripts using the syntax ./, where is the name of the example program, or using GRC to load and execute the GRC-based examples.