With a simple digital TV USB capture card, you can build your own software defined radio or spectrum analyzer, it’s still very useful and only requires $20 in hardware.
The only piece of hardware required for this build is a USB FM/DTV capture device with the Realtek RTL2832U chipset. So far, two USB sticks have been tested and the unit with the largest frequency range (64 – 1700 MHz) is available direct from China for $20.
Turning these cheap capture cards into software defined radios and spectrum analyzers was discovered by [Antti Palosaari] after sniffing the device. These cards demodulate the frequency and send all the data to the computer and is decoded via software. If you have one of these capture cards lying around, you can grab the software and load it up on your *nix box. Right now, the software only writes directly to a file, and may drop a few samples if writing to a hard disk instead of ram. Small problems, but we’re sure this project will pick up steam in the very near future.