Thecus already released a mighty NAS with the N2810, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon. The new version is called the N2810PLUS and it comes with a better CPU and double the RAM. Both are things that are hard to argue with and a welcome addition to Thecus’ lineup.
The N2810PLUS comes equipped with 4GB DDR3 memory over the 2GB in the N2810 and the slightly faster Intel Celeron N3150 quad-core processor. The previous model used the N3050 processor, so it is only a small bump. Still, every little helps and can make the difference for a smooth experience.
The N2810 and N2810PLUS NAS’ support 4K video output via the built-in HDMI port and this is one of the areas where this upgrade should make a difference. The added memory, which most likely also makes it dual-channel over a single-channel setup now, will provide a much smoother display of high-resolution content. The addition of two more CPU cores will no doubt also help with this and any other task.
The NAS is designed for easy hard drive installation and with a focus on reliability. It can act as a full multimedia centre that supports AirPlay, DLNA, and much more – on top of the direct 4K playback. Two LAN ports provide the user with 7 modes of link aggregation and the three USB 3.0 ports deliver high data speeds for portable storage.
It also comes with the latest version of Thecus operating system, ThecusOS 7.0, that provides an optimized and feature-rich platform with an intuitive user interface and easy navigation. Key new features include Photo Station, Thecus App Center, and File Center. ThecusOS 7.0 delivers significant advancements in productivity, flexibility, and performance.
The new N2810PLUS edition NAS will begin shipping globally today, so it should be at your local Thecus dealer very shortly.
PDP are one of the biggest aftermarket peripheral brands around, having had great success with products such as the AfterGlow controllers for Xbox and PlayStation, now they’re back again with another great addition, this time exclusively for the PlayStation 4. Sony’s latest console is a great hub for home entertainment, offering a fantastic Blu-Ray player, as well as a host of multimedia applications such as Amazon Prime, iPlayer, PlayStation Video and Plex, but there’s been one glaring omission from the setup; a remote control.
The PlayStation 3 had a Bluetooth remote for ages, so it was expected that one would be made available at the console launch, or at least very close to it, but nothing came to light. Now, all this time after release, PDP has stepped in to make the officially licenced controller and while it almost feels like too little too late, I’m sure many of you are happy to see that a remote has finally been made available! The question is, is the control any good?
“Enjoy the convenience of having one remote to instantly control the endless entertainment options of your PlayStation®4. Want quick and easy access to all your favorite TV shows, movies, music, and videos? Coordinate everything with the officially licensed Universal Media Remote for PS4 and manage up to 4 devices—PS4, Set Top Box, TV, and Audio Receiver. Whether you’re listening to music, watching a video, or settling down with Netflix for the night, the Universal Media Remote for PS4 puts you in control right from the comfort of your couch.”
All the features you could hope for are here too, as you can not only control the PlayStation 4, but also up to three additional devices such as your cable box, surround sound and more, meaning the PDP controller has the potential to be the only remote you’ll need to pick up for movie night. It also promises additional support for many of the multimedia applications that are available on the PS4, which is certainly a big benefit overall.
Intuitive Control: Enjoy a convenient way to navigate and control your PlayStation® 4 system with ease.
Command up to Four Devices: Control your PS4system and up to three additional devices, including a TV, cable box and audio receiver.
Connects via Bluetooth: Uses Bluetooth to control your PS4 system.
Dedicated PS4 Buttons: Includes the most important buttons for navigating system menus and apps including the Action buttons (triangle, circle, cross, and square), Share, Options, and PS buttons.
App Control: At launch, the Universal Media Remote will be fully compatible with the following apps on PS4, with more to come later:
Blu-ray Disc Player
DIRECTV NFL Sunday Ticket
NBA GAME TIME
The packaging is nicely designed and shows off that official product badge proudly. PDP have a small logo on there, but overall this looks pretty much like a Sony branded package.
Again, we see that it has support for PS4 via Bluetooth, as well as other devices via IR.
In the box, you’ll find a simple multi-language user manual.
There’s not a lot here that isn’t obvious, but for setting up other devices to the control, you’ll likely need to read the booklet. Either way, it’s all fairly straightforward.
Synology’s 2-bay play series has been very popular among users due to its great features and functionality coupled with a low asking price. Today I’m taking a closer look at the newest model in this series, the DS216play, a NAS featuring a powerful dual-core CPU with hardware H.264 and H.265 transcoding support and floating point unit.
Let us dive right into the hardware on this little NAS. The CPU is an STM STiH412 32-bit dual-core processor with 1.5GHz and floating point unit. The hardware transcoding engine is capable of the H.265 (HEVC), MPEG-4 Part 2, MPEG-2, and VC-1 codecs and it can work with a maximum resolution of up to 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) at up to 30 frames per second. It allows you to transcode 4K videos to 1080p, making them suitable for all screens and bandwidths whether they are local media players or remote mobile devices. In addition, you can also stream original 4K resolution videos to your multimedia player or 4K TV within a local network environment. The CPU is backed by 1GB DDR3 memory which should be sufficient for its area of operation.
With those hardware specifications, the DS216play is able to deliver an average speed of 107 MB/s when reading and 91 MB/s when writing on a RAID 1 configuration from a Windows environment. The built-in floating-point unit enhances the overall capability of the main CPU and it is particularly advantageous in speeding up thumbnail creations when uploading a lot of photos or videos.
One of the main features of a NAS like this is to stream media files to a whole lot of devices. The DS216play can act as a DLNA certified DMS (Digital Media Server), allowing you to stream multimedia contents, such as music, photos, and videos, to DLNA compliant devices. It can also stream to pretty much any other device such as mobile phones and tablets, TVs, and stereos. Synology also offers support for Samsung TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Roku players.
Three of the official and very popular apps on the DS216play are the Photo Station, Video Station, and Audio Station. They provide a streamlined and sleek interface that turn your NAS into an entertainment hub. The Video Station allows you to browse and manage all your movies, TV shows, and home videos and build up a smart video library with those. The Photo Station is the same, just for still pictures, and it also allows you to create web albums or blogs to record and share the exciting moments of your lives with others. The Audio Station can create your own audio streaming service where you can build a personal music center and stream music directly from your Synology NAS to other devices. You can rate your songs and sort music into smart playlists according to the rating. Plus, sharing a playlist with others is as simple as creating a sharing link and sending it to your friends.
Thanks to Synology’s QuickConnect, you can easily access all the NAS functions no matter where in the world you are, as long as the NAS and you both have an internet connection. It is a very simple DDNS service that takes care of all the settings for you. All you need to do is log in. This allows you to create your own personal cloud service where you don’t need to rely on costly monthly plans or storage limits. You can still connect your NAS to public cloud offerings such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, hubiC, and Baidu Cloud as well as Amazon S3, Glacier cloud service, Microsoft Azure, SFR, and hicloud.
The Synology DS216play supports plenty of backup methods for both Windows and Mac users with the use of Cloud Station. Whenever you modify a file, the changes are backed up to the DS216play automatically. Mac OS users can also use Apple Time Machine. Backups to and from another Synology NAS is also supported, just as rsync servers, external drives, and cloud services can be used as backup targets.
Speaking of external devices, the DS216play has one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 port for external storage devices, printers, or wireless adapters. There is one Gigabit Ethernet port for the network connectivty and the entire unit is cooled by a 92mm fan.
So far I have talked a lot about the media capabilities on the DS216play NAS, but we shouldn’t forget that NAS stands for network attached storage. The DS216play naturally supports everything it needs to here from Samba (SMB2) for Windows and Mac OS users as well as AFP and NFS. Should you use WebDAV for your credentials, then that is supported too. AFP, CIFS, File Station and WebDAV also support network recycle bins for extra safety. An FTP service is also included by default, one of the oldest and most universal file transfer protocls around.
The File Station is a fast and secure feature for sharing and managing your files stored on DS216play. Just drag and drop to upload data from Mac or PC. Advanced filters make it easy to search for documents, photos, or videos and it also has a built-in FTP and email client. IT lets you organize and share files through an advanced web application and you can even share files and folders with others by simply sending a link. Files can be reached on mobile devices via the companion mobile app DS file. Both HTTPS and SSL/TLS encryption are featured for secure transfers and you can even set link expiry dates.
Synology built the DS216play in the well-known two-piece chassis, this time in black. It is simple yet effective with the only downside of not having front-accessible drive bays. On the other hand, home users are the intended market for a NAS like this and it is not like they’re switching and swapping drives all the time.
4K Ultra HD video transcoding on the fly
Powerful dual-core CPU with H.265 codec support
107.7 MB/s Reading, 91.47 MB/s Writing
DLNA certified for media streaming
Powered by Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM)
Packaging and Accessories
The Synology DiskStation DS216play comes in a simple brown box with a sticker highlighting the NAS model and its features.
The physical characteristics are detailed a little bit more on the rear where it also lists the hardware specifications.
Inside the box, next to the NAS itself, we find a power cable and AC/DC converter, a LAN cable, screws for the drives and the chassis itself as well as a Quick Installation Guide to get you going.
Buying a high-end gaming keyboard is great fun, but for many of us, it’s a luxury rather than an essential purchase. Money is obviously a factor for a lot of people and splashing out £50+ or even £100+ on a keyboard is simply not an option. So how far does your money go at the budget end of the market? The latest keyboard from Evo Labs; the Tri-Colour LED Multimedia Keyboard, comes in at around £15 from most retailers, which is without a doubt, budget friendly.
The keyboard isn’t devoid of features either, offering a range of multimedia keys and shortcuts, as well as a three colour LED backlight, so it’s still going to look pretty decent on your desk and offer some level of usability beyond the standard keys. Let’s take a closer look at what it has to offer.
As you can see, the packaging is pretty straight forward. There’s a nice image of the keyboard on the front, as well as badges to show support for Windows and Linux, as well as the tri-colour LED lighting (blue, red and green).
The keyboard comes hard wired, with a fairly standard USB cable, not that you really need much else or could expect much more at this price range. The chassis of the keyboard looks nice enough, with a slightly oversized frame giving it an aggressive “gaming” vibe.
Across the top, you’ll find two banks of keys. On the left, you’ll find a few shortcut keys for basic desktop functions such as home, search and bookmark.
On the top right, a full range of multimedia keys, these are great for controlling your music while you’re working or gaming.
The key caps feel a little “cheap”, but that’s because they are, so hardly a shocking revelation there. The keys have a slight texture to them and the light weight plastics do have one plus side in that the key action feels quite light and fast.
The keys are slightly recessed into the chassis and that helps give the keyboard a slightly sleeker look overall.
A fairly standard number pad, pretty much like any other full-size keyboard really.
The profile is quite low, but you can raise it using the feet at the back. The thin body of the keyboard means that it’s very lightweight, so it’s pretty easy to transport, but also subject to breaking a little more easily than some other keyboards on the market.
Around the back, you can see the hard-wired cable, but there’s not really much else to see here.
The bottom of the keyboard has two large cut-outs, likely in a bid to help reduce materials and cost; this makes no difference to the performance though.
Two fairly standard flip up feet, I’ve seen better and I’ve certainly seen worse, even on more expensive models.
XMBC entertainment center was originally built for the hacker-friendly Xbox and last year they broke away from that naming. It has long been the go-to media player for HTPC builders and to show the change in direction the app was taking the developers decided it needed a new name. Now it is called KODI but it is essentially just the next version of XMBC.
It is still a great update and Thecus NAS is now onboard with that app as well. It wasn’t like the Thecus NAS servers were lacking multimedia functionality in any way, even sporting VLC as we saw in our Thecus N5810 Pro review a little while ago.
The Thecus NAS servers with HDMI output now support KODI and you can install it directly from the app central. Connect the NAS to your TV or monitor with an HDMI cable and enjoy all those stored moment directly. I’ve recently made the switch to an NAS with direct output and it is amazing. I love it every day and have since repurposed my HTPC into another job.
Kodi is supported by the following Thecus NAS models:
N16000PRO, N12000PRO, N8900
N6850, N8850, N10850
N7710, N7710-G, N8810, N8810-G
To install KODI, you’ll need Firmware 2.05.08. You can also read up on KODI and Thecus on their own if you’d like to know more.
So Android Auto, Google’s answer to Apple’s Carplay is finally ready for consumers to buy. It’s been around 9 months since the announcement back in 2014, so all the non-Apple-Fan-People can have a responsive OS in their car. It has all the typical support that you would expect from Android, Maps, calls, music and even text, but into a larger, car-friendly interface. The technology behind this is sort of similar to Samsung’s “S-Beam” where you can ‘beam’ the information from your phone to another applicable screen and then use that new screen to control it.
Car manufacturers aren’t known for their amazing technological implementation speeds, it may take many months before cars start appearing with this as a standard feature. However, some manufacturers promise some existing 2015 models may accept Android Auto through a firmware upgrade. Now just because you have that 2014 Ford Fiesta doesn’t mean you can’t have Android Auto, Pioneer has announced 3 new head units, starting at $700, that will support Android Auto; I’ll just stick to my carputer thanks.
A lot of computer users suffer from Repetitive Strain Injury or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome due to extensive use of mice and keyboards for extensive time periods. To fight this Spire introduced the Curvature Ergonomic Keyboard (SP-K4003-USB) in their line or ergonomic products.
This isn’t a keyboard designed for the average gamer, but rather the everyday computer user. The special curved and arched shape of this keyboard should give your arms a more natural position and let your wrists relax while typing. Being a USB keyboard, it is compatible with devices that can handle this from Windows to Mac, everything in between, and comes with media keys as one of the extra features.
Curvature is build out of HIPS (high impact polystyrene) plastic and backed by 2 years manufacturer warranty. Availability should be now and the MSRP is set to $41.95 exclusive VAT.
Curved and arched, ergonomic design
Large palm rest and support
Natural wrist and arm positioning
Suitable for long computing hours
Multimedia keyboard hot keys
High-quality membrane key switch
Thanks to Spire Corp for providing us with this information
Piracy has always been a serious issues for law enforcement agencies, governments and multimedia corporations. There have been numerous attempts aimed at stopping piracy throughout the years, but all failed. Looking at The Pirate Bay for example, it even had an increase in traffic recently, despite all the crack-down attempts so far. The latest news however further tells us that the popular torrent website isn’t going to fade away anytime soon too.
The team over at The Pirate Bay is said to have made a mobile version of its website, extending the reach of its piracy content to the mobile sphere. The previous website which users were taken to when accessed on a mobile device is said to have been basically a shrunken version of the desktop version. It was not very responsive and usable from a mobile device, as Ubergizmo states, but that is bound to change.
“The normal version of the site renders like crap on mobile devices. We will add more features later on, such as personal RSS feeds so users can browse torrents at work or school, and start the downloads at home.” The Pirate Bay team states.
The new version is said to be more mobile-friendly, as per the picture above detailing the mobile version in comparison to the old shrunken-down version, and aims to deliver its website’s content on-the-go to users who do not have a desktop or laptop in front of them. This however will not be good news for record labels, publishers and movie studios, who might think that the new ‘optimization’ would further increase piracy activities.
In the world of solid state drives, there are a vast number of advantages to be seen and had over the older mechanical counterparts and aside from raw capacity and the consequent price per GB of storage, the SSD is bar far the superior option to opt for when upgrading or building your new system. On the face of it, solid state drive are all about pure speed and whilst they are able to hit the limits of what the SATA III interface can handle, there is a whole lot more to the humble SSD to what lies on the surface and the crib sheets that are laid beside them.
The behind the scenes operations that hard drives rely on are pretty set in concrete and whilst there are some minor differences in performance to be seen, the way in which data is read and written to the drive stays the same with the iconic spinning platters and a read / write head which flickers back and forth hundreds of times a second. Solid state drives as we know by now are much more different and the lack of moving parts as indicated in their name means that everything is electronically altered within the silicon chips that are laid out on the PCB. How this data is read and accessed though does vary and overall we find three types of NAND available; synchronous, asynchronous and toggle. Typically we see most drives on the market offering up asynchronous or toggle mode NAND and this on the basic level comes down to the price. As we know, if you want better and more consistent performance, then you’ll be expecting to pay that bit more and this is exactly the case with synchronous NAND. The performance levels that are on offer on paper may look vastly greater, but in the real world the differences in speed are a lot closer than expected – the real advantage comes in sustained performance. I will go into this all a little later on to explain how it all works.
In the latter part of last week, ADATA gave us all a bit of a tease with an image on their Facebook page that teased us all with a portion of the drive on show with today’s date (2nd April 2014 for those not reading this on the launch date) down the left hand side. Buy why are ADATA keen to do this? Surely the launch of a new drive can’t be that special?
Well in some respects this is just another SSD; it doesn’t offer up a 2TB capacity as I’ve seen some speculate and ADATA haven’t found a way to rip through the limitations of the SATA III interface – nor is it a RAID0 drive within a single 2.5″ frame – damn I love it when people try to spread rumours! What the SP920 is, is in fact a drive that has been designed and built to meet the demands of our home entertainment driven lives and this where the aforementioned synchronous NAND comes into play.
Built around one of Marvell’s latest controllers, ADATA have chosen to use the more expensive NAND in favour of faster and more efficient file transfers from the drive – something which async and toggle mode drives struggle with as the volume becomes more congested with stored data. Multimedia files such as high-definition films and audio files or uncompressed data as we techs refer to them can put a lot of strain on the drive and in some cases we see the performance slowly drop down when being read – especially as the volume fills as mentioned above. This is what the SP920 is made to combat and thus why ADATA are proud to get the enthusiast community wanting more information.
Inside the SP920 packaging we get what is becoming a somewhat new industry standard bundle with a 2.5″ to 3.5″ drive bay adaptor, 7mm z-height to 9mm drive converter, screws for installation, quick start guide and a copy of Acronis’ drive migration software to make the upgrading process much quicker and less painful.
Since we had our first look at an Asustor product little over four months ago, the freshman to the NAS market have been busy extending their product line-up with the addition of four systems in a new entry-level ‘Personal to Home’ category. As seen when I put the AS-604T through its paces, the subsidiary company of Asus have clearly not lost their edge when it comes to modern design; even though two and four bay systems generally follow the same basic design pattern.
The AS-302T that I’m going to have a look at today is part of the ‘Home to Power User’ group of systems that Asustor have to offer; however there are one or two distinct features that will set this system apart over say the AS-604T that I previously reviewed. Whilst the main specification of the system is, as expected, lower than some of the more premium units, home entertainment and media serving capabilities are included to wet the appetite of any home entertainment technophile.
There are a large number of systems these days that claim to offer the home user the perfect system for streaming audio and video content from, but what most of these lack is the ability to do this directly from the NAS, as opposed to stream the content through a 3rd party system such as a smart TV or laptop. The AS-302T however has this covered. On the rear of the system is a fully operational HDMI port and inside the box we find a remote control. Place these together with a range of downloadable media playback applications that include the popular XBMC front end and what we have is an all-in-one file storage system come media centre in one compact package.
Inside the box, Asustor include all the basics needed to get the system up and running with an AC power adaptor, CAT5e patch lead, two sets of screws for 3.5″ and 2.5″ drives, installation CD, quick start guide and we have also been given the optional remote control for the systems media functions.
As we take a look around the various suite and stands at CES, we always want to expand the number of vendors that we work with and this year sees us meeting up with the team at Diamond Multimedia. Now going by just the name alone we would expect Diamond to be showcasing products for the home entertainment market as well as the business sector, however as we find, presumptions such as this should not always be made.
It turns out that Diamond make quite a large number of wireless products as well as various other connectivity devices for the home along with the graphics cards that Pete took a look at during our suite tour.
Wireless range extenders – as I’ve detailed in the past – are one of the easiest ways of filling in any wireless dead spots in the home, especially those which have solid walls as I’ve personally found out. Whilst some range extenders simply do little more than just extend the range of the network coverage, Diamonds wide range of items pack a variety of additional features to add extra functionality and convenience along the way.
The WR300NR range extender as seen to the left in addition to extending a wireless network, also packs in the full functionality of a wireless router with two Ethernet ports on its underside of WAN and LAN connections. For for some users who are always on the go, carrying around a bulky router is simply not practical and this compact unit packs everything into a single unit for convenience and portability.
In addition to wireless range extenders, another way of connecting to locations together in the home is over a powerline network. Since the early days of powerline – where I had little faith in the technology (to be perfectly honest) – the number of vendors offering up powerline kits has expanded considerably, especially as the technology has been refined and made more reliable. Diamond had two powerline kits on show in their suite; the HP500AV which offers up a 500Mbps link speed for a simple point-to-point connection and the HP500WEK (as seen below) which, in addition to the specs of the kit above, also features a wireless range extender to give the benefit of powerline technology to both wired and wireless devices.
The last networking device we see on show stands out from the crowd – not because of its functions, but due to its bright red colour. It’s safe to say that Diamond want this router to stand out from the crowd and whilst it is not available on the market as of yet, the WRD7000 packs all the features that we would expect any wireless router to pack these days, along with two USB3.0 ports for connecting external storage devices or printers to the router for sharing across the network.
Moving along from the network devices and accessories, Diamond also have a host of display adaptors to show off, including a USB to DVI adaptor which easily allows for a secondary display to be connected to the likes of a ultrabook or laptop with a single display output.
Whilst VGA outputs are a rare sight on most desktop systems these days, we still tend to find them cropping up on tv’s and projectors and when we look at the latter – in most cases projectors are mounted to a ceiling and bridging the gap with a cable is not always practical. The ‘WPCTVPRO’ solves this conundrum with a simple two-piece kit that comprises of a wireless enabled VGA adaptor and a USB adaptor for the host device to connect to. Like the USB adaptor above, this adaptor is sutable for virtually any desktop system, whether it has a display output on it or not.
Moving away from display adaptors and back over to network adaptors, I find yet another item that pulls my attention as something a little different. Alongside a USB to Gigabit LAN adaptor, Diamond also have an Ethernet adaptor combined with a SuperSpeed USB3.0 hub giving the benefit of a Gigabit Ethernet port on ultrabooks or systems such as a Macbook Air, but also an additional set of USB ports for connecting cameras, and storage drives to. Like everything else that I’ve seen here from Diamond Multimedia, it is simple yet practical.
The last item that I found in the Diamond suite has certainly stirred my interest. Whilst the concept of a laptop docking station is not new – Dell for example have been providing their own proprietary units for a number of years now – many users today, turn to laptops as their main workstation and by the time we take a secondary monitor, network, and other peripherals into account, the number of cables that we need to connect up becomes quite an inconvenience. Add on the fact that ultrabooks are becoming more and more popular and we also realise that there is not the same range of connectivity options on hand to work with. This is where the DS3900 comes in to play. Through a single USB3.0 connection, this docking station provides four USB2.0 ports, Gigabit LAN, HDMI, DVI on the rear and on the front, two USB3.0 ports and dual 3.5mm ports for microphone and headphone connections; all in all, everything that most users will need to get their desk connected – all through a single USB cable. This is something that I’m eager to get in for review and I’ll certainly be contacting Diamond after the show to get a sample arranged.
Stay tuned as we have still more content for you to see from our sweep around the Diamond Multimedia suite and the rest of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The PlayStation 4 is set to be one of the biggest hardware releases in years, not just in the consoles games industry, but in the tech industry as a whole. Many games developers, hardware partners, retail outlets and of course consumers have a lot counting on this console and the question of will it fail, or will it succeed is important when it could see a hardware life cycle of 7-9 years, much like the PlayStation 3 has and will.
Yet for all its graphics and gaming prowess (for a games console at least, I know PC “can” be more powerful), games console have to be a little more than just games consoles these days, they take center stage under our TV’s and act as a hub for many kinds of digital content, yet for all we have been told of the PlayStation 4’s hardware capabilities, little has been discussed about its multimedia capabilities.
“We know that people like these functions, such as Netflix, and use them a lot. And especially for those people who are not the person who purchased these consoles – like family members – they tend to use these non-game functions. So it’s not like we are no longer going to do these functions, but especially for the announcement event, we wanted to show how the game experiences will change with PS4, because that’s the biggest focus for us. Once that communication [to the public] is achieved, then probably later this year we’ll talk more about what these non-game functions [are] that we are trying to bring to PS4 as well,” said Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony Worldwide Studios.
Sony is due to launch the PlayStation 4 this year and prior to that we can expect a show at E3 in June, as well as a few smaller events held by Sony them selves where they will no doubt tout the gaming titles, hardware and price tag for the console. Yet there will be time for other features and while the software partners will soon pick up the slack in terms of game coverage and news, there will be time to discuss streaming media, online services, blu-ray playback and much much more.
I would bet at a bare minimum we can expect to see a continuation of all streaming services that are currently available on PlayStation 3, perhaps with a few surprises thrown in.