The HackRF finally arrived after nearly a year of very hard work by Michael Ossman. I was in the original kickstarter, and had big plans – it was going to be a spectrum analyzer for 6m, it was going to let me watch the entire 20 to 30MHz allocation for propagation, it was going to let me record spectrum for later playback, etc. etc.
It was also another opportunity to force myself to learn more about GNU Radio, which as it turns out, is really the only way to run the thing properly. I may do that yet, especially thanks to the awesome, free video lessons that Michael is doing. (I have only made it up to lesson 4.)
It has turned out to be a bit less than all that. I think that I (and many other hams) expected it to be like a Funcube dongle, only better, more powerful, and so on. But its not a software-defined radio – it is actually just software-defined test equipment, for use by people who know WAY more about RF, sampling/conversion, and digital signals than I ever will. I also suspect, (after watching the forums for months while many others tried to get theirs to do more than say, receive FM broadcasts,) that there are a few quality problems. In any case, I was happy to help Michael, and it was $ well-spent.
Mostly I think that the software, GNU Radio included, is WAY behind the hardware. To top it off, going forward, the hardware that we need software for, that we might experiment with, will not be built with hams in mind. I don’t think it will get better. I am thinking that in about 5 more years, some utilities may turn up that will make something like a HackRF far more useful to hams or SWLs – if there are any hams left by then. Of course, by then what most hams actually USE will be small boxes, with antenna connectors on them that we just browse to.