Summer of Code 2018: Project idea list
This is the list of project ideas for the summer of code 2018 within GNU Radio.
Remember that these are ideas and are merely meant as an inspiration for you to write your own proposal.
Students who do not find a fit among these projects are encouraged to engage with us and suggest new ones. The GNU Radio discussion mailing list is the best place to contact all of us. Please do not contact us off-list for the sake of discussing the summer of code, unless you're contacting a mentor listed here to get feedback on a proposal.
Reviewing the Google GSoC FAQ page for a broader understanding of project, mentor, and student responsibilities is recommended.
If you need a USRP or other radio hardware to complete the project, we will be able to arrange something.
Please add ideas to this list (you may cannibalize old ideas, of course!).
Guidelines for good projects (when suggesting projects, please consider these):
- Clearly defined scope, with a main target that can be done in 3 months
- Clear benefits for the GNU Radio project
- Not specific to a certain hardware. No specific embedded devices, either, please.
- Both OOTs and in-tree improvements are welcome
CtrlPort backend implementation
- Existing CtrlPort builds on Thrift
- Thrift has proven to be a very problematic dependency
- Hence, only a very small percentage of users able to use CtrlPort
- CtrlPort was designed to be transport-agnostic, so let's replace the transport
- Hottest candidate: ZeroMQ + MessagePack
- Backwards compatibility is not really necessary (very small number of uses so far)
- C++ and Python expertise
- Basic understanding of RPC
- Basic GNU Radio understanding
- GNU Radio has a working CtrlPort transport
- Tool to list the Performance Counters that are exposed via CtrlPort
- Example code how to remotely interact with a flow graph via CtrlPort/ZMQ
Block header parsing tool
- Python-based tool
- Can extract info from block headers (and maybe, if it has to, also from the .cc file)
- Analyse factory signature ("make function"), analyze getters/setters
- Analyse I/O signature
- Auto-generate YAML files for GRC (would require another tool, also part of this project)
- Facilitate inclusion of GNU Radio with other tools/frameworks
There is some code in gr_modtool which does this, which can be reused and extended.
- Strong knowledge of Python, including Py3k idiosyncrasies
- Some text parsing experience
- Some understanding of GNU Radio block structure
- A tool, written in Python, merged into the GNU Radio source tree, which can turn a block definition into some kind of abstract representation (the design which of is also part of this project)
- Another tool, which takes the abstract representation, and produces YAML files for GRC.
- An API into calling this which can be used by other tools (external to GNU Radio).
- Make gr_modtool use this tool instead of its builtin code.
gr-modtool is one of the most important tools within GNU Radio, as it makes the creation of community modules much more accessible. However, it is in dire need of an overhaul, as its early codebase even predates the 3.7 API change. In its current state, gr-modtool is a fairly static chunk of code: The 'add' functionality in particular is a long string of if-then-else style static rules, which are then procedurally executed into a string of templates or file operations. A more functional style, with a less static rule set, would do the wonders to that good old tool.
Rewriting modtool in its entirety is task that is most likely way to large for a single GSoC. However, there's a lot of subtasks, so this can be broken up. When applying to this task, students should indicate which part of modtool they would like to work on. Even so, it is unlikely that more then one student will be able to work on this without too much destructive interference.
The following items can be improved for modtool, in order of priority:
- Rewrite as a plugin architecture. Currently, only GNU Radio OOTs and in-tree components can be extended. There's no reason modtool can't work for VOLK and RFNoC (thereby obsoleting rfnocmodtool).
- Find and eliminate pockets of non-Py3k compatibility.
- Python API. modtool is currently only usable as a command-line program.
- An actual UI to improve usability.
Creating a better modtool requires strong knowledge of Python, including Py3k idiosyncrasies, functional design principles, template generation. Also, this task requires some knowledge of the existing modtool.
The outcome depends on the subtasks selected by the student, but in an ideal case, the plugin architecture would be in place and would allow other projects to implement their own plugins. Documentation for this project would also be highly valuable.
GRC: View-Only Mode (Secure)
When a flowgraph from an untrusted source is opened if GRC, arbitrary Python code can be executed. This poses a potential security risk. Storing the all evaluated values of all parameters within a flow graph (.grc) file would allow us to open such flow graphs without compromising security. No code would be have to executed to draw the flow graph and block parameters can be viewed safely. Only if the flow graph is modified the user would have to choose to trust the flow graph thus enabling normal eval operations.
GRC is implemented using Python. So, Python should be known pretty well.
Safely view other people's flowgraphs without putting your PC at risk.
DTV User Front-End
GNU Radio includes gr-dtv, which allows the decoding of ATSC TV signals and various other Digital Video Broadcast standards. From a DSP/decoding perspective, it's an impressive GNU Radio module. The issue is that it lacks any sort of user front-end and is difficult to use.
A well-designed UI for gr-dtv would be a great addition to GNU Radio. It would nicely demonstrate how GNU Radio can be used to create real-world applications. It could also include the following features:
- Automatic selection of frequencies based on location
- Integration with web services, such as TV program indicators
- Load IQ files
Since gr-dtv already includes the bulk of the DSP/decoding part, this would be primarily GUI development. The programming language may be chosen by the student, although Python is probably the most viable candidate. Experience in GUI development is a strong requirement, though.
The result of this project should be a simple, click-to-launch app that immediately allows watching DTV, assuming the availability of some SDR hardware. The fact that a GNU Radio flowgraph is running in the background should be nicely hidden away.
Extending and Updating gr-radar
gr-radar (https://github.com/kit-cel/gr-radar/) was a great and successful GSoC project that provided a few methods of radar in GNU Radio. This module is heavily used by academics, researchers, cybersecurity folks, and hobbyists. This project would work to improve upon the concepts already in there as well as add more radar techniques.
There are uncountable methods and techniques that could be added to this project, such as:
- SAR / InSAR methods
- Better passive radar support
- Speed camera applications
- Multi-antenna radar techniques
Signal processing and some radar basics are required. Code is written in C++ with some Python on the side, so the student must be able to handle these languages at the least.
Based on the student's interest, a subset of the radar techniques listed above (or others) are chosen as milestones for this project. All code must be merged back into gr-radar by the end of the summer.
Stefan Wunsch, Martin Braun
Extending and Updating gr-inspector
gr-inspector (https://github.com/gnuradio/gr-inspector) is a toolbox with focus on automated reception of unknown signals and providing analysis functionality for the same. Currently, it is possible to energy-detect signals, mix down signals as well as filter and decimate detected signals. The output of this chain can be fed in a custom signal processing chain. Also, gr-inspector features basic automatic modulation classification (AMC) functionality, using Tensorflow (https://www.tensorflow.org/) and cyclostationary features. Additionally, parameters of received OFDM signals can be estimated. The existing functionality provides a platform to extend in various directions:
- Improve detection algorithm to provide more accuracy for signals with flat edges
- Add option to manually select more than one signal
- Improve AMC functionality/user experience (nicer output)
- Automatic signal demodulation after modulation classification (this should be split in more subtasks)
- Use database to output guesses about radio service depending on estimated parameters
Knowledge of C++ and Python as well as strong signal processing and communications engineering background. Depending on the direction of the extension, AMC and/or ML background needed. Also, signal intelligence experience is a plus.
We rely on the students to pick out a set of tasks that consistently extends gr-inspector and is managable to be implemented in 3 months. All work will be merged into master branch by the end of GSoC.
GNU Radio Companion Extensions: Output C++ Code
GRC currently only outputs Python code, which is convenient for a number of reasons of usability and dynamic development. Some people prefer to work in, build, and release compiled binaries. Our Android work in GNU Radio requires C+-based flowgraphs compiled into a static library. Being able to tell GRC to output a C+ project with the actual .cc/.cpp code and the Makefile structure to build both dynamic linked and static linked apps would be a great addition to GNU Radio in general.
The generated code is C++, and GRC uses Python for the generation, so these two languages should be known to a decent level. Basic understanding of how GNU Radio and GRC is also required, but may be obtained in the ramp-up phase.
Add a feature to GRC that will allow to select the output language. Port some blocks to include XML bindings for C++ and use those to test generation of buildable source packages and binaries.
QT Widgets Improvements
The gr-qtgui in-tree component provides some QT widgets for signal visualization. This component needs some improvement to become more useful.
This project is cleanly divided into several sub-projects:
- Add new widgets
- Compass display (e.g. for direction-finding applications)
- MPEG display (e.g. for video demod output)
- Matrix sink (e.g. for radar Doppler/range plane visualization, or 2D-equalizer taps visualization)
- Improve current widgets
- Better code structure to make the current widgets more manageable, extensible and remove code duplication between widgets
- More Control Panels on other widgets (follow lead on the frequency sink)
- Improve UI, make more intuitive, more power to mouse users
- Set trigger point with mouse
- Integration / Support for QT Creator
- QML design
- Allow to build full GUI applications from, say, GRC
Familiarity with QT is essential. Widgets are written in C+, so some C+ knowledge is also required. Python skills are highly useful.
One effort of the past years was to improve Android support for GNU Radio. We're getting to a point where we've figured out how to do it, so the next step is to make it more accessible to users and developers.
The Android ecosystem is an entirely different beast from the rest of GNU Radio. To make writing Android/GR apps easy, the following needs to happen (and shall be part of this project):
- Improve support for development environment
- Create Dockers for easy start of development
- Visualization classes for PSD, spectrogram and oscilloscope
- Easy reuse in other apps, like the gr-qtgui widgets, but for Android SDKs
- Interactivity concepts
- Gestures and config for radio params (e.g., freq, gain, bandwidth)
- Create an example FM receiver app that allows easy channel selection etc. through motions and gestures
- Some Android experience
- Enjoy writing GUI widgets
- C++/Java experience
Filter Design Tool Enhancements
GNU Radio provides many tools to design and use digital filters. Using these tools requires both some expertise in these areas as well as an understanding of the performance on the given platform. One example is the selection between FIR (convolution-based) and FFT (fast convolution-based) filters for different resampling rates. Another example is doing stages of filter decomposition when doing large down-sampling. Included in this is the polyphase filterbanks, which again are provided as primitive blocks that need tweaking to work.
This project is to improve our uses of these tools and blocks to make it more obvious to the users as well as automate some of the decisions for optimally using them. Some pointers:
- When used in GRC, we want to save the results of the tool in a local file or for use in actual blocks.
- It still currently runs on PyQWT, which is obsolete and needs to be updated to QT4/QT5
- Add more support for filter design concepts and other filters.
- Cascaded filters
- Better support for creating PFB filters
Strong DSP background required. Python and QT knowledge highly useful (at least one of those is a must).
Sebastian Müller, Marcus Leech
Implement SigMF functionality for GNU Radio
SigMF is the "Signal Metadata Format" that was defined during the 2017 DARPA Hackfest in Brussels. Its purpose is to annotate raw binary dumps of signals with metadata, thus giving meaning to a raw mass of samples.
SigMF is specified and has a minimal reference implementation here: https://github.com/gnuradio/sigmf
GNU Radio needs its own implementation of SigMF that ties into the block structure. The following things need to be written:
- Source and Sink blocks for SigMF (similar to the current metadata blocks)
- Converters for files generated with the current metadata file formats
- Static analysis tools using SigMF
Basic understanding of how to write GNU Radio blocks is required. Also, the student needs to explain that she or he has understood the concepts of SigMF, although SigMF is a very simple, JSON-based file format.
Depending on the precise path that the student and the mentor define, experience in GUI development would also be useful.
The source and sink blocks are by the far the most important outcomes of this project. We estimate it would take about a third of the active coding time to implement those, and have them merged around the midterms.
This leaves plenty of time for further development. The next most important task are the converters, so existing metadata files will continue to be useful. After that, the student should define own tasks based on their interests. A very relevant problem is the ability to effectively visualize metadata in combination with signals.
Bastian Bloessl, Sebastian Müller
Statistical Toolbox for GRC
A statistical toolbox for GRC would enable GUI-based statistical analysis. Currently, such analysis can be done by writing an independent program (e.g., with Scipy), but there is no actual integration with GNU Radio. By developing the statistical toolbox, we provide blocks for probability distribution fitting, hypothesis testing, extracting statistical parameters for one-dimensional as well as multi-dimensional data. This would significantly expand GNU Radio users' ability to perform datascience analysis and modeling on signal data.
Understanding of existing GNU Radio tools (e.g., GRC), GNU Radio Out-of-Tree Modules, and statistics / datascience modeling.
An OOT module that provides statistical analysis capabilities for GNU Radio.
Standardized High Throughput FEC Codes
Channel coding is essential to modern communications. Also, it is computationally very heavy. As of now, there exist implementations in GNU Radio which are too slow to be integrated into high throughput applications. GNU Radio would benefit from integration of standardized decoders for Turbo and LDPC codes. These codes would only support a certain subset of the whole code class but would be well optimized.
Understanding of gr-fec API. Knowledge on channel coding. Understanding of C++.
Standardized Codes, e.g. LTE Turbo Codes, 5G LDPC Codes, CCITT Convolutional Codes etc. are available in gr-fec. The prefered goal is to find a highly optimized implementation and integrate these into GNU Radio.
- Students interested in participating, read the student instructions and the rules of conduct.
- To apply, please introduce yourself on both the GNU Radio mailing list
- Fill in the formal application for GNU Radio
- Pick some items from the list above or feel free to suggest another piece of work relevant to this theme. Give us a detailed, week-by-week plan for completing the task over the summer.