28 February 2006

shortwave summary: feb 2006 (part 3)

It was a busy month for my shortwave receivers, as I improved reception and reduced some indoor interference. Also, I had to give the new Eton E5 a good workout! Here's the final batch of my February 2006 reception reports.

Broadcasters mentioned in this report:
* Voice of Croatia
* Voice of America
* China Radio International
* Radio New Zealand International
* Radio Havana Cuba
* Radio Canada International
* Radio Slovakia
* Voice of Korea (North Korea, that is)
* KBS South Korea
* Voice of Vietnam

* 18 Feb 2006, 0310 UTC: 7285 khz (Voice of Croatia): To my knowledge, this is a new station reception for me. It's also a very short broadcast so this reception was only about 5 minutes long. Due to a weak signal, I could only understand pieces of it. Croatia was mentioned in several headlines (a good indicator of the station), then I heard a definitive "Voice of Croatia" identification. Primetimeshortwave.com places the transmitter in Germany, so this is also one of the longest-distance receptions for me. Signoff was "have a pleasant remainder of the day!" (Thanks!) SIO 232.

* 1905 UTC: 15580 khz (Voice of America, to Africa): Sounds like a hip-hop radio station without commercials. I didn't hear station identification until 2000 UTC. It was the first time I heard VOA music programming. The featured guest was LaToya London, an American Idol finalist. The show consisted of an interview, her music, and other rap/hip-hop songs. She wants rap lyrics to focus on positive and motivational messages. ID was "Africa service of the Voice of America." During the broadcast, the SIO code started at 544 and ended at 333. This could be typical for a 19 meter broadcast from the east coast (the transmitter is in Greenville, North Carolina). I'd like to hear more VOA music programs, such as Little Stephen Van Zant's "Underground Garage." But I don't expect this opportunity to last. (Update: a-ha! Underground Garage is broadcast locally on FM.)

* 19 Feb 2006, 0300 UTC: 9790 khz (China Radio Intl): China offered US$1 million for Phillipines relief. Pakistani president is visiting China; "two friendly neighbors." Abbas says "respect all previous agreements with Israel." Hamas rejected a call to negotiate with Israel. Pentagon won't close the Guantanamo prison as suggested by the United Nations. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez says the USA failed, and will continue to fail, to isolate his country. Little hope for more survivors in the Phillipines; 1800 estimated deaths. USA dispatched 2 warships and 1000 marines to the area. Hamas is forming a new government. Japan is the biggest destination for China's agricultural products. India confirmed H5N1 (bird flu) in chickens on 18 Feb; it was also found in a wild duck in France. Canada seeks to diversify its oil business. Most of Canada's oil is consumed domestically and by the USA, but exports to China could begin. SIO 434.

* 20 Feb 2006, 0015 UTC: 9570 khz (China Radio Intl): I heard the "CRI" identification on this frequency, but not much else. It was a notable reception because the transmitter is in Albania. SIO 131.

* 0410 UTC: 15720 khz (Radio New Zealand Intl): Discussing jobs in various industries; concerns over job cuts; training. Financial news and currency rates. SIO 434. This is why yawning was invented.

* 23 Feb 2006, 0500 UTC: 6000 khz (Radio Havana Cuba): Cuba has a low HIV infection rate. Investigations into death squads within the 1500-member Iraqi police. Churches in the USA released a statement opposing the Iraq war. Mailbag show: bookmarks, QSL cards, and schedules commemorating the station's 45th anniversary. A free eye surgery program in Cuba was mentioned, but I somehow missed most of the story. The announcers said that Americans can't participate because US citizens face a ban on travel to Cuba. While that persists, I'll have to get my mojitos by using Puerto Rican rum and a recipe from the web. SIO 534.

* 2203 UTC: 15180 khz (Radio Canada Intl): Olympics news. Very brief reception. SIO 333.

* 25 Feb 2006, 0527 UTC: 6000 khz (Radio Havana Cuba): The United States operated military flights over Europe using a bogus "JGO" callsign. The callsign previously belonged to a low-cost Canadian airline. SIO 433.

* 26 Feb 2006, 0110 UTC: 7230 khz (Radio Slovakia): I stuck with this only until I heard the station identification. SIO 121. I would love to pick up a stronger signal from them! Alas, they use the problematic 41 meter band. I'd also like to know if their transmitter is in Bratislava or somewhere else.

* 0301 UTC, 7285 khz (Voice of Croatia): No reception comments in my notebook, although I believe I heard the station id. SIO 222.

* 27 Feb 2006, 0129 UTC: 13760 khz (Voice of Korea, North Korea): Blatant propaganda. I can't hear the broadcast clearly, but Kim Jong-il is mentioned frequently and every story has a positive outcome. The station id, "this is the Voice of Korea," was heard numerous times during my half-hour reception. Uplifting-sounding music (for mind control). Constant praise for Kim Jong-il. Bragging about improved agriculture due to farming machines. "We conclude the English language service." SIO 222. I hope to receive this more clearly sometime so I can capture better details. It's possibly the most appalling broadcast out there.

* 0204 UTC, 9560 khz (KBS South Korea): Discussing counterfeit money printed in North Korea. Plans for cross-border railways and roads between North and South Korea. (Oh, really?) Couples could receive subsidies for their children under 3 years of age, in efforts to increase the birth rate. Microsoft is appealing a fair trade ruling in South Korea. The fine is 32.4 billion won (approximately US$33 million); related to software bundling with the Windows operating system. Playing the latest music from South Korea and write-in requests from listeners. SIO 333. (Relayed from Sackville)

* 0230 UTC, 6175 khz (Voice of Vietnam): Difficult to understand. Interference from 6170 khz (and I'm not sure what would be broadcasting there). Japan is the largest investor in Vietnam. Discussing shipbuilding. Endoscopic surgery was introduced in Vietnam during the 1990s. Interesting, but I didn't get to hear any cultural bits. SIO 322. (Relayed from Sackville)

26 February 2006

upcoming radio reviews

Are there any radios in particular that you'd like to see reviewed here?

25 February 2006

black and white e5 photo

I took a photo of my Eton E5 and made it black and white:



shortwave summary: feb 2006 (part 2)

Here are more of my reception reports for February 2006 from northern California. I used my Sony ICF SW7600GR and my new Eton E5. A lot of stations were logged this month.

Broadcasters mentioned in this report:
* Radio Havana Cuba
* China Radio International
* WBCQ
* Radio Australia
* KBS South Korea
* Radio Thailand
* Radio Netherlands

* 11 Feb 2006, 0500 UTC: 6000 khz (Radio Havana Cuba): 55% of detainees at Guantanamo have not committed acts against the USA. Only 8% believed to be affiliated with Al Qaeda. Some were turned over by bounty hunters, with no evidence of crimes. USA had wiretaps in Greece 2 months before the Athens Olympics, up until May 2005. (I found a Reuters article that said the perpetrators of the wiretaps were unknown, but that the U.S. Embassy in Greece was involved. Did RHC jump to conclusions?) Wiretaps were discovered and dismantled by Vodafone while debugging customer issues. Bush administration wants to sell 200,000 acres of national parks land, mostly in California. Thankfully, similar proposals have recently been rejected. I live in California and I'm very worried about this possibility.

Conflict diamonds from Liberia and the Ivory Coast are reaching major markets, and helping to fund rebel factions and civil wars. Diamonds go from Liberia to Mali. Retailers should have a policy on conflict diamonds and a written guarantee of a diamond's source. Viewpoint: muslims humiliated by caricatures. European press is putting on a disgraceful show. Guantanamo hunger strikers strapped to chairs for hours each day; force-fed through tubes; kept separate from other prisoners. SIO 544.

2317 UTC: 11970 khz (China Radio Intl): Discussing off-season trips, offering easier travel and less crowds, because the lunar new year holiday is over. Chinese figure skaters performed very well in the winter Olympics. Beijing is cloudy with temperatures in the range of -1...7C (30...44F). SIO 444.

I regret missing the Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco this year. The weather was really nice; I just didn't go. I've only been once (maybe 5 years ago).

2357 UTC: 7415 khz (WBCQ, USA): Listening to "most unusual shortwave." Mentioned the Church of the Subgenius show. Station located in Monticello, Maine. "Your station of peace, love, and understanding." Lots of fading. Discussing the approaching snowstorm in the northeast. This person is Timtron. SIO 333. (12 Feb 2006, 0338 UTC: 7415 khz - SIO 131.) I wish I could receive a strong WBCQ signal into the evening on the west coast.

* 12 Feb 2006, 1715 UTC: 11880 khz (Radio Australia): Interviewing a musician and playing his music. World music beat with syncopated and reverbed vocals. Can't really hear the lyrics. Moderate fading. Album "came together quickly." SIO 434.

* 13 Feb 2006, 0200 UTC: 9560 khz (KBS South Korea): Oil closed below US$60, 12% below this year's high price. Beijing supports an Asian for UN Secretary General. SIO 322.

0312 UTC: 5890 khz (Thailand): Discussing an alcohol / smoking ban. Military is protecting schoolteachers from insurgency. Muslim leaders meeting with government officials with the goal of reconciliation. Public service announcement about improving the lives of rural Thailand citizens; something about supplemental income. The 2004 tsunami reduced tourism in the south and increased it in the north. Unocal, which does business in the kingdom of Thailand, has merged with Chevron and will operate under the Chevron name. Rumors of a strong US dollar policy weakened Asian financial markets. During this reception, I heard occasional half-second dropouts of the signal; something I haven't heard on other broadcasts. "Live from the public relations department of the royal Thai government." SIO 555; relay transmitter in Delano, California, USA. I don't listen to Thailand's broadcast much, and this is one of the few 30-minute broadcasts that I've received. This short broadcast was mostly news overviews; largely devoid of cultural information.

* 16 Feb 2006, 0502 UTC: 6000 khz (Radio Havana Cuba): Suspected election fraud in Haiti; under investigation. USA and Israel are purportedly planning a Palestinean regime change to knock out Hamas. Israel wants to cut Gaza off completely from the West Bank, and limit travel of parliament members.

White House spends billions on advertising and public relations. "No amount of money could successfully sell the Bush administration's failed policies" -- Nancy Pelosi. The 12 judges in Atlanta's 11th circuit court began hearings for the Cuban Five. International observers and attorney Leonard Weinglass attended. A court decision is expected within 2 months. SIO 444; some fading and static.

* 17 Feb 2006, 0507 UTC: 6165 khz (Radio Netherlands): A Kazhakstan opposition leader was murdered. Citizens believe the recently-elected President is responsible. Elections were just held. Eight CIA rendition flights stopped off in the Netherlands. Discussing European regulations regarding migrant workers; fears of eroding wages. Swans are especially vulnerable to bird flu. Bird flu is expected to reach the Netherlands in a matter of days. Amnesty International hopes to save a woman, condemned for adultery, from death by stoning in Nigeria. In 2006, the Dutch economy is expected to grow and unemployment is expected to decrease.

500,000 Dutch citizens have migrated to Australia. Several reasons for wanting to leave: comparing conditions with other countries, effects of the cold war, and feelings of having no future. Forged identities/skills in order to enter Australia; one masked as a mechanic. Housing shortage in Australia in the 1950s due to a lack of building materials during World War II. Children tried hard to assimilate. Dutch have a reputation as being hard-working. Some had homesickness; didn't fit in when they went home to the Netherlands. A Dutch woman living in Australia says that people shouldn't use migration experiences as an excuse for hardship or unhappiness. SIO between 544 at the start, and 444 at the end. Transmitter in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles.

I heard several reasons why people were interested in leaving the Netherlands, but it wasn't clear to me how they all picked Australia. Initial migrants probably triggered a snowball effect.

24 February 2006

am/fm signal strength by zipcode

I wish I remembered where I found this link. If you enter a United States zipcode, you get a list of radio station frequencies along with estimated signal strengths. Or you can enter a station's callsign to see its coverage in its principal city. The output includes the station's callsign, frequency, signal in DBu, and a link to the FCC website with station details.

Use the links at the bottom of the page to look up AM/FM signal strength by zip code, or by callsign.

Zip Code Signal at www.v-soft.com

21 February 2006

shortwave website with photos

While reading rec.radio.shortwave today, I saw a post about a radio enthusiast's website. Mike Maghakian has a site with numerous photos of his radio collection, details of a Grundig Satellit 800 speaker mod, and some radio tips. Here's the URL:

http://home.comcast.net/~maghakian/

20 February 2006

shortwave summary: feb 2006 (part 1)

I learned a new trick for reducing interference while indoors. A thread I started on rec.radio.amateur.general led to a suggestion to rotate my radio. For mediumwave broadcasts, this is how to null out interference and target weak signals. Although my radios' whip antennas were horizontal and aimed at my window, I was not getting the best possible reception. Turning the radios around and pointing the whip antennas at my refrigerator actually reduced the local interference. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

Here are some of my shortwave reception reports for February 2006 from northern California. I used my Sony ICF SW7600GR and my new Eton E5. More reports will be posted soon.

Broadcasters listed in this report:
* Radio New Zealand International
* Radio Taiwan International
* Voice of Russia
* Radio Havana Cuba
* British Broadcasting Corporation

* 28 Jan 2006, 1843 UTC: 15720 khz (Radio New Zealand Intl): Talking about politics in the USA: republican power grab in 1994, controversial K Street project. Jack Abramoff issue could become the biggest scandal in a century. Investigation of UFOs; geiger counters measure radiation at sighting locations. SIO 433.

* 07 Feb 2006, 0700 UTC: 5950 khz (Radio Taiwan Intl): Discussing the arms budget bill. Taiwan planning "advanced weapons" purchase from the USA. Solar energy use is increasing in Taiwan, China, and Japan. The region seeks renewable energy due to oil costs. A large book fair is approaching, and will attract participants from around the world. Taipei weather for 07 Feb 2006: cloudy with temperatures in the range of 15...22C (59...71F).

The Taiwanese are proud of their ceramics. A region south of Taipei produces a lot of ceramics. Known for unique colors, shapes, and objects. Creative objects reflect influences of the west and the east. During the "You've got mail" show, the announcers are reading letters, laughing, and having a good time. Several letters are from India. RTI wishes its listeners a "fantastic, fabulous, and fulfilling year of the dog. Happy Chinese new year!" The announcers note that reception reports don't need to relay the show contents verbatim, but should include the listener's opinion and reaction.

Now onto dog stories (in recognition of the year of the dog). Adopt-a-dog organization helps sick and lonely people. One woman's beagle throws a ball for her, so that she has to stretch and pick it up. This helps with her physical therapy. SIO 544.

* 08 Feb 2006, 0410 UTC: 9840 khz (Voice of Russia): A letter-writer asks, "Is Russia gradually becoming the U.S.S.R.?" The country is working on consolidating unity. Some leaders have been elected fraudulently and were corrupt. Russia helps impoverished African children through its G8 obligations, which includes writing off debt. Discussing the American practice of awarding undistinguished behavior such as "best dressed." Russians don't do this. It is illegal to advertise alcohol on Russian television. But a Ukranian vodka ad has been running for years; regulators seem to look the other way. The announcer said that "the vodka...is quite good." Now discussing the Russia-India-China strategic triangle. Developed to counter the political, economic, and "military might" of the USA. Russia no longer views the USA as an enemy; partnering with the USA for energy development and anti-terrorism. USA's military spending equals "five thousand billion dollars" -- interesting way to phrase that number. Russia's military spending is 3-5% of GDP, second in the world behind the USA. Spain seeks membership in the G8. SIO 433.

I haven't heard from Voice of Russia in quite a while. VOR has interesting news but their announcers usually lack energy. I emailed the station my reception report and they promptly replied to point out that I forgot to list the frequency. After replying with the frequency, they confirmed my reception and indicated that a QSL card was on its way.

* 09 Feb 2006, 0515 UTC: 6000 khz (Radio Havana Cuba): Pentagon is covering up widespread sexual harassment of females in the military. Mailbag show now. They want more females to write in! Former president Jimmy Carter says eavesdropping is illegal. SIO 533.

* 10 Feb 2006, 0201 UTC: 5975 khz (BBC): Discussing patriot act issues. Russian president invited Hamas leaders to Moscow; doesn't view Hamas as a terrorist organization. Italy is spending US$100 million on Olympic security. SIO 434.

19 February 2006

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16 February 2006

saturn lightning recording

This is somewhat offtopic but I think it is of interest to the readers here. Let me know what you think.

As discussed on Coast to Coast AM and mentioned tonight on rec.radio.shortwave, NASA's Cassini spacecraft recorded a lightning storm on Saturn during January 23-24, 2006.

Lightning Crackles on Saturn - transcript and mp3 recording at www.nasa.gov .

15 February 2006

radio havana cuba pocket calendar

Many weeks ago, I emailed Radio Havana Cuba after they announced on the air that they were giving out pocket calendars for 2006. An envelope arrived from Cuba this week, containing two pocket calendars, another Happy New Year card, and spanish instructions for one of their essay contests.

As you might expect if you're a frequent reader here, I photographed the pocket calendar:

13 February 2006

is radio marti propaganda?

Radio Martí operates a spanish broadcast sent via shortwave from the United States into Cuba. According to Wikipedia, "Radio Marti operates with about 100 employees and a budget of $15 million." It was originally a Voice of America operation based in Washington D.C., but is now operated by an organization called the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. In 1996, the station moved operations to Miami to be closer to its target audience.

I wanted to make the claim that Radio Marti was propaganda because it serves to undermine Fidel Castro. But my stance changed somewhat after reading this 1998 "Radio Marti" article on qsl.net. Note the New York Times quote from 1986. Certainly, it is possible that the broadcasts today are much different from 20 years ago. And although I can clearly listen to an audio stream over the Internet, I don't understand spanish.

Do any of you listen to Radio Marti via shortwave or the Internet? What do you think -- is Radio Marti broadcasting propaganda?

When I'm in Northern California as I usually am, the 6030 khz Radio Marti broadcast (0500-0700 UTC) seems to be distorted by the sound of running water. One reason could be a weak signal, although I've never heard any other signal with a swishing sound like this. Another possibility for the distortion is jamming. I confirmed this suspicion with a web search, turning up a webpage with a recording and analysis of the jamming by Cuba.

In California, the jamming is louder than the broadcast. During my stay in upstate New York in December 2005, the broadcast seemed at least twice as loud as the jamming. As I wrote in my reception log, if I understood Spanish, I'd be able to understand it just fine. Of course, the jamming signal is from Cuba for Cuba, so propagation is not its goal. Also, I'm comparing summer and autumn reception in California with winter reception in New York. Many propagation variables come into play.

Plans exist to broadcast Radio and TV Marti from a plane. Here is a Miami Herald article originally seen on Radiointel.com: Plane may help overcome Cuba's "news blockade".

Here is a Lexington Institute article titled "Radio Marti's shrinking audience and what to do about it.

For more on Radio Marti, read The Taxpayer Waste and Failure of Radio Marti in the Havana Journal (an American-run news service).

* Radio Marti - windows media and real audio streams available via the link "Radio Marti en vivo"

* Radio Marti shortwave schedule/frequencies

12 February 2006

ge superadio and eton e5 on amazon

It is not my goal to sell products here, but I decided to pass along good deals when I see them. Amazon currently lists a GE Superadio III for under US$40:



Also, the Eton E5 is available for pre-order. Apparently it will start shipping on March 20, 2006:

11 February 2006

my sw7600gr (photo)

Earlier today I took a few photos of my shortwave listening setup in my apartment. Here's a photo of my Sony ICF SW7600GR:



It is tuned to 11970 khz (China Radio Intl) at approximately 2330UTC.

09 February 2006

receiver status

For no apparent reason, I thought I'd mention each of my portable shortwave receivers and what they are currently doing:

* Sony ICF SW7600GR: This has been my main radio lately. This is partly because I'm listening indoors, so its larger size compared to my other portable radios isn't an issue. The synchronous detect helps improve many signals, but in a few cases it actually increases the noise level. I've recently been using this radio to hear longwave and ssb in addition to the normal shortwave broadcasting. I wish that both the LCD and its backlight were a bit more exciting.

* Tecsun PL-350: I use this in conjunction with the SW7600GR, either to provide supplemental treble for a broadcast, or to check other frequencies while the SW7600GR does most of the work. This radio is definitely more sensitive to noise than the Sony.

* Kaito KA1102: This is currently my favorite portable, although it doesn't get much use while I am indoors. SSB reception is not as good as on the SW7600GR.

* Tecsun PL-200: I have one in my bathroom and use it mostly for mediumwave reception.

* Tecsun R-912 and Tecsun R-9012: I also use these mostly for mediumwave reception, or when I'm in the mood for analog scanning in the shortwave bands. My older, duller-looking R-912 seems to be a slightly better performer overall than my colorful R-9012.

* Eton E5: Ordered! It doesn't seem justifiable that this radio costs about the same as an SW7600GR, but I want one anyway. I don't have a Kaito KA1103 (aka Degen DE1103), and according to passband.com, this radio offers similarly excellent performance. It also has a dedicated volume control, and alphanumeric memories. I'll let you know more about this radio when I receive it.

08 February 2006

a place for comments and questions: 2006

Readers of the Cobalt Pet shortwave radio weblog are encouraged to post comments and questions. In case you have a comment that's not related to a specific article, you are welcome to reply here. I'll link to this post from the sidebar so it's always easy to find. I welcome general comments, questions, and help queries, as well as feedback on the website layout.

If you find something on this site confusing, or located a technical term you're not familiar with, please mention it here so I can explain it or fix the article.

[Edit: No new comments on this page; please visit the main page and follow the link named "comments welcome here" to visit the current comments page.]

06 February 2006

wbcq monitoring

A reader recently asked me about WBCQ shortwave reception here in northern California. Sadly, I've monitored their frequencies the past few nights without success. During 0400-0700UTC, I checked 5110 / 7415 / 9330 khz and heard only static. Tonight, I have relatively clear skies (low atmospheric moisture) and the Kp index in the 1-3 range, but still nothing. I even switched on my DE31 active loop antenna to try to catch it.

I emailed the station with a description of my listening situation. They haven't replied yet, but I am hoping they can tell me if they have received reception reports from California listeners recently. That would be a good indicator of whether their broadcasts are reaching my area these days.

I would like to hear a number of WBCQ's shows, and I appreciate their free speech approach to broadcasting. If any of you are WBCQ listeners, I'd be interested in your comments!

Edit: I wrote a post in WBCQ's Reception Reports forum about this issue.

03 February 2006

radio feature requests

While using my shortwave receivers, I've imagined radio features that I want but haven't yet seen. Here's a partial list:

* Schedule-based alphanumeric memories. The same frequency can be used by different broadcasts, but I don't think it's possible to have the radio figure out which station is associated with which frequency. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) By allowing users to program in a station's schedule along with the frequency, this could be solved.

* A back button. This is something I use in a web browser all the time as a simple undo method. Sometimes I'll tune into a broadcast, and wonder if I can receive another broadcast on another frequency. I'll enter the second frequency but hear nothing, and then want to return to the original frequency. That usually happens via direct entry or by recalling a memory. But a single keypress for this operation would be great.

* Background scanning. I could tune into a frequency and have the radio perform a background scan where receptions are queued up. A number could appear on the display to indicate how many stations are in the received queue. Then that list could be flipped through with up/down buttons. This is like the feature that can auto-fill a memory bank but would happen while I'm already listening to a station. This can be worked around with additional receivers, but would be awkward when using headphones.

* Scanning pause button. My SW7600GR uses a pause-and-continue scanning method. It seems to stop on each channel for about 3 seconds. That's barely enough time to determine the broadcast language. Of course, sometimes the radio stops on a frequency that is nothing but noise. In those cases, the short pause makes more sense. Anyway, I want a pause button that I could hold down while scanning, allowing more time to evaluate a signal.

* Audio deconstruction. Since noise and interference can hinder analog shortwave listening, some listeners use advanced antennas or filters to improve the reception or audio quality. What if a radio could disassemble the entire audio signal, and let the user sort out the good audio components and the bad audio components to reconstruct the sound? I have no idea what the user interface would be like. In the case of local interference overpowering a faint signal, I believe it's possible to detect which sound components are quieter and which are louder. So all of the louder audio components could be discarded, letting the broadcast through. Also, sounds that are constant at a particular frequency could be treated as interference, particularly for a voice broadcast (as opposed to a musical broadcast). The human voice tends to produce a staccato effect over time whereas noise can hiss constantly at particular frequencies.

01 February 2006

new eton product pages at universal radio

Universal Radio has added product pages, including general features and prices, for upcoming Eton radios:

* Eton E5. "This new model is expected February 15, 2006."

* Eton FR350. "This new model is expected March 31, 2006."

A page is also still accessible, although not linked, for the Eton p7132 (now called the p7136, I believe).