Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 39, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. (If you’re new here, welcome, get ready for gadgets this week, and also, you can read all the old editions at the Installer homepage.) 

This week, I’ve been writing about Surfaces and other tablets, chatting with some internet friends about the fall of Red Lobster, reading about Magic: The Gathering and the history of emoji, watching MoviePass, MovieCrash, weeding my patio with a literal flamethrower, and for some reason, eating a lot of popcorn. Like, a lot of popcorn.

I also have for you a bunch of cool new gadgets, a new YouTube channel you’re going to love, a new-old Mario game, a clever new AI tool for Windows, lots and lots of fun new games, and a whole bunch more. Let’s do it.

(As always, the best part of Installer is your ideas and tips. What are you into this week? What should everyone be into? What is so awesome that everyone needs to know about it right this second or else? Tell me everything: installer@theverge.com. And if you know someone else who might enjoy Installer, and tell them to subscribe here.)

The Drop

  • The Sonos Ace headphones. I’m generally very happy with my Bose QuietComfort Headphones, which are kind of beaten up but still work great. Even for $450, though, the Ace look really nice — I dig the super-minimalist vibe, almost like they’re an early prototype the company shipped. Really curious to see the reviews on these.
  • The new Surface Pro. If you’re one of the “why can’t my iPad do more stuff” kinds of people, the device you want might not be an iPad. It might be the new $999 Surface Pro, which Microsoft promises has great performance and battery, comes in cool colors, and has a really nifty new keyboard attachment. 
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Another great reboot from Nintendo, which is remarkably good at sprucing up old Mario games and getting me hooked on them all over again. Like my colleague Andrew Webster wrote, the Switch is turning into a retro Mario RPG machine, and it’s awesome.
  • Howtown. I love a good “no mystery too small” show, which is why I’m a religious consumer of things like Search Engine and Underunderstood. This new YouTube channel, from two excellent creators, is an insta-subscribe for me. And they have some really fun guests lined up!
  • Microsoft Recall. One of the cooler AI apps I’ve seen — and maybe the best argument yet for why you need an “AI PC.” Sure, an app that tracks everything you do on your computer feels slightly creepy, but that’s kind of already how your computer works. This just makes it useful.
  • Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. Fury Road is one of the coolest movies ever made, if you ask me, and by all accounts, Furiosa is a worthy — if slightly slower and less, uh, bonkers — follow-up. It’s also apparently the rare prequel that adds something to the first flick; guess which two movies I’ll be watching this weekend.
  • Stompers. I’m currently very into silly, chill, less-intense workout apps, and this is such a funny one. You compete with your friends to walk more, and when you’re winning, your friends get, like, virtual bananas to slow you down. Delightful!   
  • Canva. Canva launched a big redesign this week (at least, if you can find a “secret portal”), which comes with a bunch of clever AI features and some new ways for your IT department to give Canva money. I don’t use Canva much personally, but the folks I know who do tend to love it. This should be good news.
  • Hellblade II. This game sounds genuinely terrifying — and there’s not much I love more than a game that makes me scream out loud. The sound design appears to be particularly intense, so if you need me this weekend, I’ll be holed up in the dark scaring myself half to death.
  • The Daylight DC1. Half of me rolls my eyes at anyone who’s like, “Gadgets are bad. Here’s a gadget to save you from gadgets.” And it’s $729! But I love the retro-future aesthetic here, I’m hopeful the screen tech works, and I’ll be keeping an eye on this thing for sure.

Group project

Last week, I asked you to share your favorite minigames on the internet. Things you can play in a few minutes. Maybe you play once a day, maybe you play it 50 times in a row while you’re on the train to work. Did I ask for this because selfishly I’m sort of bored of Quordle and Name Drop and wanted new stuff to try? Partly! But I also suspected I’m not the only one who loves these games.

Oh boy, was I right. Thank you to everyone who responded! I got a ton of great suggestions, and I want to share as many of them as I can. First of all, here are the ones you recommended the most often:

  • Coffee Golf. A new five-hole golf course to play every day. (This was the most recommended game of the week, by a lot, and I can see why. I love it.)
  • Bandle. Guess the song, one instrument at a time.
  • Travle. Get from one place to another, one adjacent country at a time.
  • Connections. Find the four words that belong together.
  • Framed. Guess the movie, one screenshot at a time.
  • Wordle. Can’t forget the OG!

And here is a list, in no particular order but very slightly categorized, of some of the other great game recommendations I got. First up, there are the games that I’d describe as “Wordle, but not exactly:”

  • Worldle. Guess the country by its shape.
  • Summle. Put the numbers and operators in place to make math equations work.
  • Episode. Like Framed, but for TV shows.
  • CineQuote. Guess the movie, one line at a time.
  • Murdle. Solve a mystery with only a few clues.
  • Waffle. Rearrange the board until all the letters are in the right place.
  • Knotwords. Like sudoku meets a crossword puzzle.
  • Strands. A word search with a theme.
  • Queens / Pinpoint / Crossclimb. The three new daily games on LinkedIn, which are all pretty fun. 
  • Housle. Guess the house price by the photo.

I heard about a bunch of Immaculate Grid games, which are a huge new category and are very fun:

And last but not least, there were the other games. Not all of them are daily, but I think they fit the “it’s a thing you can do a couple of minutes at a time,” so I’ll allow them: 

  • Pedantle. Find words in a redacted page to figure out which Wikipedia entry it is.
  • Chrome’s Dino Game. Best use of a broken webpage ever. 
  • Contexto. Try to guess the word just by guessing other words.
  • Football Bingo. Turns out, I don’t know soccer as well as I thought.
  • Untitled Game. It loads a blank webpage. You figure out what to do next.
  • Random battles on Pokemon Showdown.
  • Universal Paperclips. You make paperclips. And sell them. As many as you can. Forever.
  • Box Office Game. The game gives you a weekend and some numbers, you try to guess the most popular movies.

I now have about two-thirds of these games bookmarked in my browser, and I will be playing them all every day forever. I may never be productive again. Thanks again to everyone who shared their favorite games, and I hope you find something fun to play!

Screen share

David Imel is a man of many talents. He uses weird, old photography equipment to make truly gorgeous panoramic photos; he makes great videos going super duper deep into how we talk to each other online; he hosts podcasts and makes videos with the rest of the MKBHD crew

I asked David to share his homescreen, both to see which of his cool photos he picked as a wallpaper and to snoop on whether he had any cool photography / podcasting apps I didn’t know about. Turns out, he’s pretty minimalist! Here’s David’s homescreen, plus some info on the apps he uses and why:

The phone: iPhone 15 Pro Max.

The wallpaper: A picture I took in Ohio while chasing the eclipse on a Fujifilm GFX 100S II Frankenstein attached to my Chamonix 4×5 view camera.

The apps: Photos, Settings, Viewfinder, Fujifilm Camera Remote, Telegram, Gmail, Pocket Casts, Messages, Arc, Spotify.

Gotta be honest, I generally use the swipe down to search apps gesture every time I want to use an app. I don’t know if that makes me a psycho, but I only keep a few on the homescreen. The widgets are for my bedroom lights and blinds — all running on Matter. 🤙 I get very little light in my apartment, so the blinds close at 9PM and open at 7AM to help me wake up, and I toggle the lights manually.

Viewfinder Preview. This is my favorite app for shooting film. I mostly use it for my 6:17 and 6:24 120 film cameras, but it’s amazing. You can emulate any film format and field of view, and you can take digital copies to both remember which image you shot and what your settings were. It’s also a light meter and has been super accurate.

Fujifilm Camera Remote. I use this to transfer photos from my X100 (my daily camera) to my phone. The new app (Fujfilmi XApp) never works for me for some reason, but the old app still works great.

Pocket Casts. This is probably the most-used app on my phone. I’ve used this app since like 2010 for podcasts, and since I bought it once for $7 way back in the day, I got grandfathered in for a lifetime pro tier once they added a subscription model. It’s a really fantastic podcast app, but I am aware that they hide a lot of features behind a subscription now, which kinda sucks.

Arc Search. David, I think you and I are probably both the biggest Arc fans on the internet. The browser is just so delightful, and the desktop app is absolutely incredible for research; segmenting out my work life / accounts / research projects, and spaces is great. I could talk forever about how much I love the actually useful AI features they have in the desktop app like tab renaming, download / file renaming, tidy tab sorting, etc., alongside pinned tabs, the ability to share folders, and more. 

I also asked David to share a few things he’s into right now. Here’s what he shared:

  • Right now, I’m in the middle of getting a Hasselblad Flextight film scanner up and running. It’s the highest-quality scan you can get outside of a drum scan, but they’re so old, you have to use a super old Mac for it. My friend Willem Verbeeck made a video on it recently. A nice ex-professional photographer in California found out I’m into panoramic photography (especially my Fujifilm TX-1) and had a mask specifically made for it. It weighs 60 pounds.
  • I’m a big fan of Casey Newton and Kevin Roose’s Hard Fork podcast. It’s not exactly new, but I think they have a great dialogue, and considering they both cover similar things in their respective publications, the conversations are a great mix of funny, intelligent, and engaging.
  • I don’t watch a ton of movies, shows, or YouTube, but I’ve been going back through VSauce’s channel and watching his old videos just because I really like the style of WHY WHY WHY storytelling. Oldie, but very goodie. Also Gawx Art might be the best YouTuber on the platform right now, and this interview with him on Jack Conte’s Digital Spaghetti channel is freaking awesome.

Crowdsourced

Here’s what the Installer community is into this week. I want to know what you’re into right now as well! Email installer@theverge.com or message me on Signal — @davidpierce.11 — with your recommendations for anything and everything, and we’ll feature some of our favorites here every week. 

“I loved Jenny Nicholson’s YouTube essay about the demise of the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser hotel experience. It’s long (four hours!), but she goes into every detail, from concept, to her own visit, to why it failed. Totally worth the time.” – Mike

ReminderCal is a really awesome app that syncs iOS Reminders so they appear in iOS Calendar. I’ve set up Shortcut automations for it, and now it works like magic (even when using the app switcher!) and feels like Apple integrated it! Plus I’m absolutely loving Hit Me Hard and Soft. The whole album is Billie Eilish at her best, and I can’t get “Chihiro” out of my head!” – John

“Just saw someone mention SequoiaView, which is great, but WizTree is about 1 billion times faster. Hope it helps someone in a rush to clean up a disk…” – César

“I installed a Synology NAS in my home and set it up as a NAS (obviously) but also as a Plex server, which works really well! I can now watch my old DVDs and Blu-rays again using Plex, after importing them as MP4s, and it can also configure itself automatically to be accessible from outside my local network.” – Wenzel

“Bought a bike recently and am really enjoying viewing my Apple Watch metrics on my iPhone. Using the Peak Design case and bike mount.” – Hobie

“After a long day, my favorite way of winding down before sleeping is watching this YouTube channel, Virtual Japan, that makes videos walking around Tokyo and other cities of Japan in a beautiful 4K HDR. My favorite videos are this one from an Onsen town and this one from a rainy midnight in Kyoto. It’s one of the best ways of calming the mind and the body before sleeping.” – Guilherme

“Apparently this isn’t new, but I just heard about Hoopla this week! It’s an app that you can connect your local library card to and gain access to their library of digital content including streaming movies and TV shows! I’ve found several shows on there that are otherwise only available on a streaming service I don’t want to pay for, so it’s been a great find for me this week!” – Charles

“Probably not new, but I learned about PlayCover and have been using it to replay the GTA III / Vice City / San Andreas games on my MacBook using my Netflix subscription.” – Alex

Signing off

About this time of year, a lot of people start asking me (and everyone else I know who likes gadgets) which Bluetooth speaker to buy. It’s party and barbecue time, I guess! There are lots of good choices out there, but let me just save you a bunch of time: buy a UE Wonderboom. The whole Boom lineup is great, honestly, but this one’s plenty loud, it’s tiny, it lasts forever, it sounds great, it’s $100. You might be able to beat it on one of those things, but I’ve never found a better “awesome speaker in a tiny box” anywhere. When the weather’s good, mine goes everywhere with me. Maybe we can hang at the beach and sync ours up for some sweet stereo tunes. Hit me up.

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