Software to turn your floor wax into a dessert topping:
- the GNU Radio project has made good on its promise. Blossom and development partner Matt Ettus have developed a software program that can make a PC receive two radio stations simultaneously. The only additional hardware components needed are a low-cost R.F. tuner, to pull the radio waves out of the air, and an analog-to-digital converter to convert each signal into digital samples.
Playing two stations at once may seem like a geeky pastime, but GNU Radio’s goals get more ambitious over the long term. At its most basic level, GNU Radio is an attempt to do for radio-software developers what the original GNU Project did for Unix developers — that is, provide a common set of nonproprietary tools that can be ported from one device to the next.
Step back a little, however, and GNU Radio changes shape. Viewed against the backdrop of digital “convergence,” the marketing term for pouring data and communications functionality into a single device, GNU Radio becomes a steppingstone to the ultimate hybrid device: a handheld PC that can be converted into a walkie-talkie one minute and an HDTV the next.
“We’re bringing the free-software ethic to radio,” Blossom says. “Who knows what’s going to come out of it?”
But that’s not all: Even more intriguing is GNU Radio’s political component. A look at recent Hollywood-backed legislation reveals a growing antipathy on the part of content providers toward modifiable consumer technology. Such laws, if passed, would limit the ability of hardware manufacturers to consort with software programs that let a user turn his or her home PC into a digital television or TiVo-style recorder.
Viewed against this backdrop, GNU Radio is a hacker’s version of the preemptive strike. Rather than wait for Washington to set limits, the project is working to undermine existing device barriers. [Salon]
Disruptive technology – ha ha!