Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 13, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. (If you’re new here, welcome, so psyched you found us, and also you can read all the old editions at the Installer homepage.)
This week, I’ve been watching Barbarian and No Hard Feelings, reading about the challenges of building “the next Twitter” and Marvel’s complicated future, using Pager to make sense of all my screenshots, and sending everyone this article about aphantasia to explain that no, I really don’t see pictures in my head, yes it’s wild, no I didn’t even realize other people could do that.
I also have for you a couple of nifty AI tools, a robot vacuum, a bunch of new stuff about the new Beatles song, a Simpsons GIF generator, a Godzilla movie, and a three-hour podcast about Facebook.
And I have a specific question I’m hoping we can figure out together this week: how do you manage your budget and money? I’m not looking for, like, wealth manager tips over here. But Mint is shutting down, and Mint was an excellent, simple way to track your money. Do you have an app you like even better, either for one small thing or for your whole financial life? Do you do it all in Excel, do you tell ChatGPT everything you buy, do you just YOLO it and hope for the best? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or text me at 203-570-8663, and tell me how you do it.
In general, of course, the best part of Installer is always your ideas and tips. What cool stuff are you reading, watching, playing, installing, whittling, knitting, or otherwise doing right now? Tell me everything: email@example.com. And if you know someone else who might enjoy Installer, forward it to them and tell them to subscribe here.
Alright, lots of good links this week. Let’s go.
- Bitwarden. If you only ever take my advice once, make it this: use a password manager. It’s the best place for all your logins, loyalty numbers, license codes, and all the other stuff you need online all the time. I’m a longtime 1Password fan, but Bitwarden’s a great choice, too — and now it does passkeys, too! Passkeys rule.
- Google Keep. I am perpetually afraid Google is going to kill Keep, its excellent and useful note-taking tool, but I think instead it might be… investing in it? What a world! Its handy formatting tools have come over to Android, and Google is now putting shopping lists and Assistant notes back in Keep where they belong.
- The new MacBook Pro. The M3 chip lineup is slightly confusing this year, and I really wish the space black were more black and less gray, but the outcome is still this: the new Pros appear to be faster than ever, and I can’t think of a spec that excites me more than “22 hours of battery life.” I’m still an Air user, personally, but the 16-inch Pro is a monster of a machine.
- Blank Check with Griffin & David: “The Social Network.” This is not what you would call a “focused” podcast. It’s longer than the movie it’s ostensibly about. But it’s super fun and funny and does in fact talk a lot about Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, being cool, and the legacy of one of my all-time favorite movies.
- Fortnite OG. My Fortnite sweet spot was in the 2019–2020 era, which means I have fond memories of Tilted Towers and roaming the terrain in shopping carts. For its new season, the game is going back through its history, with some new twists along the way. I haven’t played much recently, but I’ll be dropping back in this weekend for sure.
- RUIN: Money, Ego and Deception at FTX. Now that we know the end of the story — that Sam Bankman-Fried was just found guilty of fraud — this Bloomberg documentary about the whole rise and fall of FTX feels even more interesting and ominous.
- Brave Leo. An AI assistant that doesn’t store your data, doesn’t keep a record of your chats, and doesn’t use everything you do and say to train its model? Brave’s onto something here, especially if it can make a privacy-first product that doesn’t end up as “ChatGPT but worse.” And I like having this stuff built right into the browser.
- Raycast Quick AI. Speaking of cool AI things: Raycast is one of my favorite and most-used Mac apps, and it just got access to GPT-4’s real-time web results. It’s now the fastest way I have to search “Who won the Warriors game” or “Was SBF found guilty.”
- The Matic robot vacuum. Ugh, it’s $1,800, which is ridiculous. But I find this thing fascinating: it has some really clever hardware to keep it from getting stuck, and it never needs to be online. It’s also just a tiny bit adorable, which never hurts.
I’m probably only ever going to get one chance to do this here, so: let’s talk about the Beatles.
The most important band of all time (I will not be taking questions on this) put out what is almost certain to be the last Beatles song ever, called “Now and Then,” this week. It’s based on a 50-year-old demo that the late John Lennon recorded badly onto a cassette, and while it’s definitely not by a long shot the Beatles’ best song, it’s one of the more remarkable.
- The first thing you should do is watch the 12-minute mini doc about how the song came together, the AI tech that helped make it happen, and why “Now and Then” couldn’t have existed before now. It sets the scene perfectly.
- Vulture also has a great backstory of how “Now and Then” came together, and the BBC’s Eras podcast (which has six Beatles episodes, all of which you should listen to) has an excellent 30-minute episode on the song’s history.
- Then listen to the song. And then listen to it a few more times. Then watch the music video a few times. Then check out the new mix of “Love Me Do.” Then back to “Now and Then.”
- You honestly should watch all 6,000 hours of Get Back, Peter Jackson’s documentary series in which the MAL tech figures prominently, but this 20-minute interview does a good job of explaining how the tech works. Jackson also has his own delightful 10-minute explanation of de-mixing. And here’s a really cool 60-second example of what it does to audio.
The music industry is speedrunning the whole AI boom, and there are so many reasons to be concerned about where it will all land. But for me, this is just unambiguously good: thanks to AI, we’re going to get to hear old music again, better than it ever sounded before. I’m in.
Chris Plante, the editor-in-chief of our sister site Polygon, never makes me feel bad for liking Assassin’s Creed as much as I do, even though I suspect he rolls his eyes at me every time I bring it up. In addition to having excellent video game taste, Chris also loves telling everyone to watch ultra-deep-cut streaming shows, trying to make the gaming industry a better place for everyone, and frequently almost convincing me to buy a Steam Deck. (So far, only almost.)
I asked Chris to share his homescreen with us, figuring he’d have, like, 93 pages full of video games. I was wrong! For a good and fascinating reason. Here’s Chris’ homescreen, plus some info on the apps he uses and why:
The wallpaper: My son! But sorry, I don’t put pictures of my kid on the internet because one time I wrote that the Batmobile shouldn’t have giant guns, and people told me to kill myself.
The apps: I had a toxic relationship with my homescreen for most of my adult life. That ended about five years ago when 1) I got diagnosed with anxiety 2) I had a kid and subsequently lost most of my free time and 3) I began to delete all of my social media apps — an exhausting process that culminated this summer with me finally saying “fuck off” to Twitter.
In place of all of these apps and games that inspired some really nasty, compulsive behavior, I started a new hobby: learning Japanese. If I’m being honest, I can’t stop myself from obsessively picking at my phone at all times, but I can choose what I obsess over.
I started with Duolingo two years ago before having the epiphany all Japanese learners have — Duolingo isn’t meant for Japanese. Since then, I’ve tried all sorts of different apps. This current group has lasted the longest: Anki helps me retain vocabulary; Bunpro covers grammar (it’s technically a test app and unavailable on the App Store); and the 日本語 folder has dictionaries, reading apps, and some kanji stuff. I also keep Google Translate ready to go at all times so I don’t spend too much time on my phone when checking the kanji in whatever children’s manga I’m struggling through.
Otherwise, it’s the usual: Signal and Authenticator for work; YNAB because I’m a dullard with finances and envelope budgeting saves me from myself; and Letterboxd, arguably the one social media app I’ve kept. Though pro tip for Letterboxd: write it for yourself and nobody else. You feel less pressure, and you have the benefit of recalling what a movie made you feel in the moments after you watched it. I can’t remember ever reading old tweets or Facebook posts, but every couple of weeks, I’ll be curious about, say, what I thought of some horror movie I watched during the pandemic. And there it is, waiting for me!
Oh, and Overcast. I use the widget so I can hit pause when I’m doing chores.
Speaking of compulsions, I keep Slack on the third screen. And video games get deleted the moment I stop enjoying them. Did I mention I have anxiety?
As always, I also asked Chris to name a few things he’s into right now. Here’s what he came back with:
- Happy End. It’s hard to say one thing in particular inspired me to learn a language in my 30s, but these albums play a major part. I learned about this Japanese pop / rock / folk band in college when Rolling Stone Japan named one of their albums the “great Japanese rock album of all time.” I’m no expert in Japanese rock, but I have been chasing down Happy End’s vinyl records ever since. You won’t find them on Spotify, but you can hear their music if you make even the smallest effort on this powerful tool called Google dot com. If you’d like to know more, Pitchfork wrote a review / band history last year.
- Godzilla Minus One. For the first time since 2016’s Shin Godzilla, we’re getting a new live-action Japanese Godzilla film. I’ve seen it. It rules. It should be in theaters this December.
- The Besties podcast. Each week, these adorable four best friends talk about the best video games. It’s a great way to discover new games — especially if you aren’t reading Polygon every day. Fans of My Brother, My Brother and Me and The Adventure Zone will recognize Justin and Griffin McElroy. Plus, the show stars Polygon’s Russ Frushtick and me. Oh, I’m sorry, this isn’t a place for plugs?
- Moonring. I know Baldur’s Gate 3 is the big D&D-style RPG of 2023, but let me give you two reasons to try Moonring. It’s designed by Fable co-creator Dene Carter, and it’s free. Like, free, free. No in-app purchases. No subscriptions. Just a brilliant, Ultima-style RPG that I’m positive will appeal to the older Verge readers who wasted away the late ’80s playing text adventures on their parents’ Mac II.
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.
“My inbox has absolutely been saved by Shortwave — finally get to relive the glory of those Inbox by Gmail days.” – Hillary
“I find myself explaining how to use computers for a large portion of my life. At work, nothing is a better aid than CleanShot X. Nothing, nothing makes me happier than sending a 15-second GIF on how to complete a task instead of 10 bullet points in a Slack message.” – Liam
“I thought Genie was pretty cool. It lets you make 3D models with gen AI the way you would with Midjourney or DALL-E. I’ve been on their Luma Labs beta for a while, and what they have is pretty dang good.” – Matt
“Found this amazing website called Frinkiac with millions of screengrabs of the Simpsons series (till season 17). I use it all the time to make GIFs and share stills. You can search by quotes or even season and episode. It’s such a simple idea but a technical marvel.” – Priyantan
“Somehow, I ended up binge-watching Yoshua Bengio’s lectures on YouTube for hours on end. That led to books on ML, and now I’m reading neuroscience books? The connection between those is fascinating. Don’t know what got into me, but that’s been pretty much the last two weeks of my life.” – Kruti
“Big fan of Retro at the moment.” – Tim
“I’ve been enjoying Music League. We have a weekly league set up, and the winner chooses the theme for the next week. It’s been a fantastic way to find new music from the other submissions, and I’ve been using playlists to narrow down my own songs, so I have 15–20 themed playlists mostly full of favorites from my own library that I’d often forgotten about.” – Michael
“Stumbled upon Book Tracker this week. No extras, clean, basic UI, fair price.” – Zook
“I am listening to and loving Andrew Leland’s memoir, The Country of the Blind. I also want to recommend getting a laptop stand and separate peripherals for people working from home all day. I have been using a Twelve South folding thing for a couple of weeks and have a lot less neck and shoulder pain already.” – Jeanne
“The Lazarus Heist, a BBC podcast about how North Korean government-sponsored hackers nearly stole $1B.” – Dave
It’s the daylight saving time switchover this weekend, which means people all over the US will change their clocks back an hour and grumble about it for the rest of the weekend. For me, it means dealing with my kid, who does not understand when clocks switch, trying to sync my microwave clock and my oven clock even though that’s apparently physically impossible, and forgetting the clock in my car only to panic in three days when I think I’m an hour off. Mostly, though, it means that daylight saving time jokes TikTok is all over my feed once again, and that is frankly worth the hassle. Plus, it’s always possible that we finally get our act together and get rid of DST altogether, so treasure this fun while you can.