Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 12, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. (If you’re new here, welcome. I’m so psyched you found us, and also, you can read all the old editions at the Installer homepage.)
This week, I’ve been testing the Superlist tasks app, reading about the high-stakes race to crack crypto wallets, rehearsing my case for buying an e-bike, taking voice notes like a boss with Whisper Memos, and avoiding all my problems by watching Between Two Ferns bloopers on YouTube.
I also have for you a new pair of AR glasses, a Netflix thriller, all the great sci-fi you could ever need, a great parenting app, a super-deep interview about Windows, a new puzzling platform, and a bunch more.
As always, of course, the best part of Installer is your ideas and tips. What app should everyone be using? What movie / show / podcast / book / spaghetti recipe does everyone need to know about? Tell me everything: email@example.com. And if you want to get Installer in your inbox and a day early every week, subscribe here.
So much good stuff this week — let’s get into it.
- Internet Artifacts. Neal Agarwal’s whole website is an endless string of delightful games and other silly things, and this museum of important internet things — the first MP3, the first-ever “LOL,” footage from the web’s first webcam, Pizzanet, and much more — is some of his best work yet. So much cool stuff here I’d never seen before. (A lot of people sent this in this week, and with good reason — thanks to all who mentioned it!)
- The 2023 Hugo Awards. If you’re a science fiction fan, here’s your reading / viewing list for the next year or so. Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (who is just Ursula Vernon under a pen name) won best novel; Samantha Mills’ Rabbit Test won best short story; The Expanse and Everything Everywhere All At Once and Dune and Andor are all among the nominees and winners. There’s so much good stuff here.
- Apple’s Journal app. iOS 17.2 is starting to roll out now, bringing with it the private-diary app Apple announced at WWDC this year. I’ve been playing with the app for a bit, and it’s… fine? Like, it is, in fact, a journal app. But I’m not quitting Day One yet.
- The Killer. You already know this about me, but I’m here for anything about spies and assassins and, in general, people who are both good and bad and don’t know where the lines are. I am also an unabashed David Fincher fan. This one’s in theaters now and on Netflix in two weeks, so, yeah, I’ll be keeping my outrageously expensive Netflix subscription a bit longer.
- Google Maps. I know, new app, super exciting, right? But Maps actually got a really useful update this week. I don’t care much about the immersive views, personally, but the better tools for EV charging and especially the improvements to the “what cool stuff is happening nearby” features are going to be super useful.
- The Leica M11-P. It’s $9,195, and I’m sure it’s fantastic because it’s a Leica. But I’m more interested in the built-in support for Adobe’s Content Authenticity tools, which sign and verify each image. In this increasingly messy AI-filled world, I love this idea.
- Alan Wake 2. A horror-story action game that’s also a detective thriller with a lot of super-weird storytelling that seems to add up to a coherent, fun, intense package? Sign me up. (Also, I officially have too many great games to play and not enough time. Please consider this my vacation request.)
- The Fight Over AI Music. The music industry is having to figure out its rules and norms about AI faster than just about anybody. Cleo Abram does a good job digging into how it all works and why it’s so complicated. And she asks a really important question that not a lot of people do: is any of this AI-generated stuff actually something we want?
- Xreal Air 2. There are basically two kinds of AR glasses right now. One type is the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses, which look cool but are all audio. These are the other kind: they’re a screen that goes on your face. That’s it. That’s the whole $400 idea. But… I kinda get it.
- “How Does AI Actually Work?” From our friends over at the Waveform podcast, this is a super accessible, thoughtful dive into what we mean when we talk about AI — and intelligence in general. It gets kinda deep!
A couple of weeks ago, a lot of you told me you like the app Sequel for tracking all the movies, books, TV shows, and everything else you want to get to. Romain Lefebvre, the app’s developer, just launched Sequel 2.1 — which integrates with the discovery and scrobbling app Trakt, has a bunch more cast and crew info, and adds spoiler-avoidance features.
I asked Romain to give us some tips on how to use Sequel and, in general, how to make the most of a stuff-tracker app like his. Here’s what he said:
- Start with what you’re actually excited about. “Avoid the temptation to catalog everything you’ve ever consumed, as this can be overwhelming. First, focus on adding recent or upcoming releases you’re looking forward to. This will help you gauge if the app is right for you. Coming up blank? Explore works from the actors and directors of your favorite movies and series! If you use a service like Trakt, check if the app can sync with your account, as this will help you evaluate it even more easily.”
- Put the app one tap away. “Place the app where you can quickly add your friends’ recommendations or mark items as watched as soon as you finish them. Widgets are also a great way of surfacing recent releases and can serve as a quick entry point, too. (Sequel has a quick access widget to allow you to open up the search from your homescreen and lockscreen.)”
- Enable notifications. “Turn on notifications for new releases from your tracked list. These reminders not only keep you updated on exciting new content but also encourage you to track what you’ve recently consumed.”
- Regularly trim your list. “It’s easy to accumulate more than you can realistically consume. Avoid an overwhelming and stale backlog by periodically reviewing and removing items you’re unlikely to finish. (Sequel, for instance, allows you to archive a series and ‘abandon’ a book or game you don’t intend to finish, keeping your list realistic and up to date.)”
Be intentional with your choices. “Your tracker is a valuable tool to guide your media consumption. Avoid jumping into the first recommendation from a streaming service. Instead, take the time to browse your tracker and choose something that you really care about. This can also help you curb impulsive purchases by checking what games or books you already own before buying the latest bestseller.”
Alex Cranz, The Verge’s managing editor, loves terrible TV. Like, earnestly loves bad shows in a way that almost makes you forget that they’re bad — even though they’re definitely for sure bad. That is just one of many delightful things about Alex Cranz.
In addition to covering the streaming biz and spending an alarming amount of time defending The Morning Show to haters everywhere, Alex also keeps a lot of The Verge running in the right direction and on time. So I’ve always been curious how she manages the many things going on, seems to have always watched and played everything, and keeps it all straight. So I asked her to share with the class!
Here’s Alex’s homescreen, plus some info on the apps she uses and why:
The wallpaper: Remember those photos that went viral after a woman found them on an old roll of film? I thought they looked neat, so I made them my wallpaper. Turns out they were rejected images for an advertisement shoot.
The apps: I love flicking between pages on my phone, so my most used apps don’t necessarily mean the ones on the front page. Slack is where the work and group chats live, Outlook is where the email and calendars live, Carrot is where the weather lives, and Ulysses is there to remind me I should write more. I try to keep everything else in folders, which means I forget to open other texting and social media apps unless the notification pops when I’m looking at my phone. The only other apps I keep at the ready are Parcel, a great package tracking app; Storygraph, which is like if Goodreads was actually good; Wikipanion, because I like browsing Wikipedia articles when I’m bored; and Google Authenticator, because work.
As always, I also asked Alex to share a few things she’s into right now — bad TV shows ideally not included. Here’s what she came back with:
- Ugly Betty on Netflix. I’ve been rewatching it, because America Ferrera, and really enjoying how it accidentally explores two enormous transitions that happened in the late 2000s: the decline of print media and the rise of the phone as a do-everything device.
- He Who Drowned the World by Shelley Parker-Chan. It’s the sequel to She Who Became the Sun and is a queer fantasy retelling of the founding of the Ming dynasty. Parker-Chan is a part of this new class of fantasy writers that all seem to be asking, “What if more big violent fantasy sagas were centered on the experience of women and queer people?”
- For All Mankind. I know the fourth season of this Apple TV show isn’t available to most people yet, but I’m obsessed with the new season, which is set in 2003 on a rapidly commercializing base on Mars. If you’ve struggled to envision a near future where space mining matters, this show will help.
Here’s what the Installer community is into this week. I want to know what you’re into right now as well! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your recommendations for anything and everything, and we’ll feature some of our favorites here every week.
“The Quiche Browser is really great! You can rearrange the whole search bar area to your liking and also add / remove buttons to / from the search bar area in the settings and change the layout of all the buttons, too. You can also add a ‘reading time’ to the search bar area, which shows approximately how much time it would take you to read the page. You can edit every pop-up menu in the settings. You can customize the color of the search bar area. It’s a really great browser!” — Harun
“Not a new feature but one I just remembered and utilized: sometimes I use the iPad as a white noise machine for the kids when we’re traveling, but I was using a free app that would cut off after eight hours and wake them up early. I just remembered iOS 15 introduced ‘Background Sounds,’ so now I use that as a built-in white noise machine!” — Thaddaeus
“Bodies on Netflix so far has been rather interesting.” — James
“I decided to move away from the native Google keyboard (GBoard), seeking something new and refreshing. I remembered SwiftKey, the pioneer in gesture / flow input before Microsoft acquired it. Recently, Microsoft added Bing Chat to it, which was a pleasant surprise! It’s now effortless to modify tone and compose messages with various parameters like format and length without ‘leaving’ the keyboard. It feels revitalized, and I’ve adopted it as my main keyboard, much like a decade ago.” — Andriy
“I just recently learned about the TP-Link AV-2000 Powerline Adapter, and I think it’s exactly what I need to get a wired internet connection from my horribly placed router to my home entertainment center!” — Charles
“Worth a watch: a three-hour interview with Dave Cutler, ‘The Mind Behind Windows.’” – Michael
“The app that helped us through those first few months of parenthood was Nara Baby. Great design, highly customizable to choose what you want to track, and you can use it like a power user or more casual one. I still use it to keep track of my daughter’s height and weight and sometimes to track medicine use when she is sick.” — Jasper
“Apple’s Reminders app: now with columns! I just switched from paper to-do lists to this, and it’s kind of blowing my mind. I can add things from any device! I can mark them off anywhere. This is not an absurdly techie thing, but it’s made things easier for me.” — Will
“I’m absolutely loving Pikmin 4. During a crowded time for games, I keep going back to it over others. It’s great for newcomers and series fans alike. It’s gorgeous and has very chill vibes. A lot of time pressure from previous games has been removed and allows the player more freedom to complete levels and challenges.” — Bobby
Y’all. A new Taylor Swift album came out this week. CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE IT? I’ve spent the last 24-ish hours mostly streaming “Say Don’t Go” on repeat while also continuing to read and watch everything I can about what a phenomenon Swift has become. Bloomberg has a great data visual thing about her new billionaire status, The Wall Street Journal has a good look at what you might call the Taylor Swift Industrial Complex, The Eras Tour is still one of the biggest movies on the planet, TikTok is melting down trying to figure out who all the new songs are about, and honestly, no one on the planet makes a lyric video better than Taylor Swift.
You may not like her music (though you should), but there’s no denying that Taylor Swift is on pretty rare celebrity and artist ground here. And also, I mean, any excuse to listen to “Blank Space” 4,500 more times is fine by me.