Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 20, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. (If you’re new here, hello, welcome, hi, what’s up, how are you, welcome to the gang, and also, you can read all the old editions at the Installer homepage.)
It’s our first issue of 2024, a number that still feels deeply strange to type — hope you had a good holiday and a nice break! I spent most of mine sick and then caring for a sick kid, which meant a lot of Elmo and The Office and trying as ever to beat my high score in Holedown.
This week, I’ve also been reading about crypto farms and AI influencers and Tara Reid, breaking in my new Instant Pot air fryer (send me recipes!), poring over Matt Mullenweg’s annual “What’s in My Bag” post, playing an upsetting amount of EA Sports FC 24, immersing myself in the r/KeyboardLayouts subreddit, discovering new tunes through a massive mashup of songs that turn 40 this year, and finally getting around to cleaning up my desk.
I also have for you some new AI apps, a new Wordle-like game, some fun stuff to watch, and some games and shows worth revisiting. Some of this stuff isn’t from this week, so consider this more of a while-you-were-holidaying catch-up issue.
(As always, the best part of Installer is your ideas and tips. What do you want to know more about? What awesome tricks do you know that everyone else should? What app should everyone be using? Tell me everything: [email protected]. And if you want to get Installer in your inbox a day before it publishes here, subscribe here.)
- Microsoft Copilot. This is Microsoft’s all-encompassing AI app, basically a ChatGPT competitor but much nicer to look at. I like it so far! Just how big a deal is Copilot to Microsoft? It’s adding a Copilot key to Windows keyboards — the first new key in three decades.
- Clicks Creator Keyboard. It’s 2012 all over again, y’all! It’s been a long time since I got excited about an iPhone accessory, but this physical keyboard attachment looks delightful. I wonder if my fingers even remember how to type on a phone keyboard.
- Bitconned. Another in the increasingly large canon of delightful documentaries about crypto antiheroes. This Netflix one is a little different, though: it’s basically just a crime story told by the criminal at the heart of it. I wouldn’t take it as, you know, Gospel Truth, but it’s a fun story.
- iA Presenter. If you’re a person who occasionally needs to make really nice slide decks but kind of hates making slide decks, this app is a godsend. Simple, straightforward, kind of impossible to screw up. The app has been out on Mac for a while, but it’s now in beta for the iPad and iPhone, and it looks great.
- Trivial Pursuit Infinite. Not exactly the most innovative or surprising Wordle-type game — it’s just, you know, a bunch of trivia questions every day. But it’s fun! And the AI mode is neat, too: pick a topic, any topic, and it’ll generate (in my experience, sometimes very weird) questions for as long as you feel like answering.
- The First Time Somebody Has Ever “Beat” Tetris. I don’t even really know how to explain this: it’s just 40 minutes of some lightning-fast Tetris playing that becomes more and more dramatic and ends in both a deeply boring and totally thrilling way. It’s a feat of athleticism, playing this way! Also, here’s a good explainer video about why this is such a big deal.
- The StoryGraph. This app has had kind of a moment — like, a “the servers broke we’re too popular” moment — over the last week or so, largely because it’s such a great place for readers. It got some new stuff, too, like barcode scanning for book tracking and a really great recommendations section. I’m going to use this and Letterboxd both a lot more this year.
- The Hollywood Reporter’s Full Songwriters Roundtable. I could watch this group of hugely accomplished songwriters — Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa, Cynthia Erivo, Julia Michaels, and Jon Batiste — talk about making music, microphones, MP3 players, and how to stay creative and open pretty much forever. Bonus: the new Actress Roundtable is also fantastic.
- Public Domain Day 2024. Mickey Mouse is the biggest new name in the public domain this year, but there are a lot of cool movies, music recordings, and stories that are now available for anyone to publish and play with. Thanks to AI, we’re about to spend all of 2024 talking about copyright law, so let’s celebrate the wins when we get them!
- Tesla Cybertruck Full Tour! We. Have. Wiper answers. Courtesy of Out of Spec Reviews, this nearly two-hour video is as comprehensive a look at the Cybertruck as you’re ever going to find. Some cool stuff, some terrible ideas, and a very, very floppy wiper.
Every once in a while, The Verge’s Richard Lawler tries to use a Mac. He’s mostly a Windows guy, but he’s also our news editor and, in general, a guy who tries to stay up to date on everything, so he’s always switching around. And I always know when he’s trying a Mac again because he starts complaining about how bad the Mac’s window management tools are and how you have to download a separate app just to do basic OS-level stuff. (All fair points!)
Richard’s also not generally the “try everything new just because” type, so when I asked him to share his homescreen, I figured he’d show us a system that is simple and optimized and exactly what he needs. I was pretty much right.
Here’s Richard’s homescreen, plus some information on the apps he uses and why:
The wallpaper: This photo on the lock screen, and “Icelandic Aurora” from Google’s wallpapers.
The apps: Google Home, Google Wallet, Camera, IoCare, Google Keep, Nest, Clock, Google Chat, Google Photos, TikTok, Google Recorder, HondaLink, Google Play, Phone, Messages, Chrome, Gmail, Overdrop.
Overdrop is my weather app. I have a constant love / hate relationship with it because it seems like every 18 months or so it has a battery drain issue and I have to reinstall it for a while, but I always come back because it’s the best one for answering the question of “did enough snow come down last night that I need to get out of bed early and clean the car off?” At least without getting out of bed and looking out of the window.
The most important app on my homescreen (other than Google Keep for as long as that remains alive) is the homescreen. I’ve used Action Launcher for as long as I can remember, along with Voxel’s themed icons. Other than a consistent look, the customizable shortcuts via swipe or long press make it easy to get directly where I need to go.
I also asked Richard to share a few things he’s into right now. Here’s what he said:
- I’m still playing Apex Legends and Overwatch just as poorly as I ever have, mostly as a companion to podcast listening.
- Season 4 of Open Mike Eagle’s What Had Happened Was just wrapped up, and it’s been my must-listen. It’s ostensibly a series of interviews with Questlove about The Roots’ history / discography through Things Fall Apart, but it’s also a time capsule of the entire late ’90s rap era told by someone who was there, covering The Notorious B.I.G., J Dilla, the Fugees, etc.
- Otherwise, it’s all NBA podcasts. My most recent addition is State of the League by JokicJoestar, and the TikTok I can’t stop watching is this channel that only posts old car ads like this one for the Chrysler Laser.
Here’s what the Installer community is into this week. I want to know what you’re into right now as well! Email [email protected] with your recommendations for anything and everything, and we’ll feature some of our favorites here every week. And for even more recommendations than we can fit here, check out this Threads conversation and this one on Mastodon.
“Perplexity AI. I started checking it out today, and I really feel like they are onto something. The UI and presentation is all super slick, and the way it presents the sources of the information it is summarizing is a nice addition.” – Matt
“Wrestle Kingdom 18. New Japan Pro-Wrestling just relaunched their streaming service, and $12 gets you an incredible show with production values American companies just can’t match. It’s thrilling enough just for the camera zooms and excellent English commentary.” – Sawyer
“Spaces for Mac. It’s solved a lot of my issues with window management on Mac, and Workspaces is kind of genius. Workspaces declutter your screen and launch all the apps you need for a specific workspace *in the screen space you want them.* The window management system also appears when you hover near the webcam. There’s also a dedicated drop space. And the whole thing integrates with Raycast!” – Mario
“I wanted to take a moment to recommend the iSH app. As a software engineer, discovering a Linux virtualization environment running smoothly on iOS was a pleasant surprise. It might sound a bit out there, but it actually works seamlessly on your iPhone or iPad. Quite an unexpected find for anyone in the tech world!” – Andres
“Equinox. I have been really leaning into a distinct wallpaper for light mode and dark mode on my Mac. This app makes it super easy to make custom ones beyond those that Apple bundles in!” – Kevin
“I fell in love again with the Mastodon client IceCubes. Was using Mona for a while, but IceCubes got some serious updates these last few weeks. It’s gorgeous, feature-rich, and open source! Best Mastodon client out there.” – Daniel
“Recently finished Severance on Apple TV, and I’m obsessed. Awesome stuff if you’re a fan of Black Mirror. Can’t wait for the second season.” – Zook
“I’ve recently rekindled my interest in Marvel Snap. It’s an engaging, fast-paced card game perfect for brief gaming sessions. Just the other day, I enjoyed playing a few rounds right before my movie started at the cinema. It’s ideal for those short sessions!” – Wade
“I just tore through The Hands of the Emperor by Victoria Goddard. It’s 700-some pages but read very quickly. A middle-aged man is great at his job, but his family doesn’t understand what it is at all. He sees the loneliness of his boss and helps him encounter the world more normally.” – DLS
“I am absolutely loving the Plex and Tidal integration for listening to music and Pano Scrobbler for scrobbling to Last.fm. I’ve also been playing with the ChatGPT integration in Plexamp to make playlists with text prompts, and it’s been fun!” – J
I am forever in search of games I can play in tiny bits. For years, I’d play Mario Tennis on the Nintendo Switch as a way to take a break between meetings or kill a few minutes waiting for water to boil. But not many games are so easy to pick up and put down.
My new go-to is one I did not expect: Golf Plus on the Meta Quest. It’s a surprisingly realistic golf game, which you can play at a variety of difficulty levels and on lots of different courses from around the world. It’s a very chill game and fun enough that I’ve recently been searching things like “Can you attach a Quest controller to a real golf club” and am almost certainly about to drop $30 on this club-like Sanlaki accessory. I’ll play a hole, have a meeting, play three holes, more work. I’m that guy now! How did this happen? Time to buy some Dockers and a vest, I guess. Wish me luck.