Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 5, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. (If you’re new here, first of all, hi, hello, welcome, and second of all, you can read all the old editions at the Installer homepage.)
This week, I’ve been reading about the remarkable pettiness of Disney CEOs and the crypto world’s most obvious scams, watching a whole lot of US Open tennis and this wild home-renovation show that’s all about VR, drafting fantasy football teams, nodding vigorously at this story about the scourge that is Rotten Tomatoes, trying to figure out how to keep my car off the internet after reading this new Mozilla study, shouting from the rooftops that everyone needs to stop using LastPass and change all their passwords, and throwing my life away for a few more minutes to play Ridiculous Fishing EX.
This week, I also have a new camera, some new speakers, the smart home controller all others should copy, the next big AI music track, some thoroughly modern football-watching tips, and Jennifer Pattison Tuohy’s homescreen. Let’s go.
(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: insta[email protected]. And if you know someone else who might enjoy Installer, forward it to them and tell them to subscribe here.)
- Polaroid I-2. Kudos to Polaroid for refusing to let the instant camera dream die. Less kudos for the $599.99 price of the I-2 and the nearly $2 a shot you’ll pay for prints. (The Verge’s Becca Farsace made a super fun video if you want to see how it all works.) But still, I love the idea that not only are instant cameras worth making but they’re also worth making better.
- Inside Elon Musk’s struggle for the future of AI. Walter Isaacson’s book about Elon Musk, cleverly titled Elon Musk, is coming out on Tuesday, and we’ve gotten a couple of excerpts so far. This one, from Time, is about Musk’s work with DeepMind and OpenAI; The Wall Street Journal had one about his Twitter acquisition; CNBC ran one about Tesla’s self-driving efforts. Not much groundbreaking news so far, but this book should be an interesting read.
- Taste Bud. This is a charming little AI recipe chatbot — plug in “what’s a good twist on cold brew coffee,” and it’ll pop up a recipe. Don’t like it? Click “try again” and get another. It’s also a fun tool for typing in all the ingredients you have on hand and seeing what comes back. The “pepperoni penne pasta” I made yesterday was a bit odd but pretty good!
- The UE Epicboom. For my money, the UE Booms are the best Bluetooth speakers on the market. The new one, the Epicboom, is big and expensive ($350!) but is rugged and lasts for hours. The new Sonos Move 2 fits in the same category. I’ll be sticking with my house full of Wonderbooms, personally, but these both look pretty good.
- Spy Ops on Netflix. A fun fact about me is that I can never get enough of spy stuff. Spy novels? James Bond movies? Movies that try to be Bond-like but instead just kind of suck? Voice-changed interviews with former spies? I’ll take them all, please and thank you. This new series on Netflix is like a true-crime doc crossed with a spy thriller, and I’m going to watch every single episode this weekend.
- The Lutron Caséta Pico Paddle Remote. This is the smart home controller I’ve been waiting for. It looks like a light switch (as all smart home controllers should), it only costs $20, and it can control most smart objects in your house. You’ll need an existing Caséta setup to use it, but Lutron’s stuff is generally pretty good, so I suspect I’m going to end up with a bunch of these.
- “Whiplash” by Ghostwriter977. The mysterious creator behind the AI Drake song that set the internet on fire is back, y’all. Kind of? There’s like a 40 percent chance that link won’t work because, once again, an AI-generated song has created a fascinating copyright battle around the internet. And just like the last time, the song’s a jam.
- Clubhouse. I am forever fascinated by Clubhouse, the social-audio app that got hugely popular for like 10 minutes and then promptly disappeared off the radar forever. But the company has totally redesigned the app and is embracing voice messaging in a big way. No idea if it’ll work, but it’s a cool concept.
Happy football season to all who celebrate! This weekend is the beginning of the NFL season, and a lot of people are going to be watching games in a new place: YouTube. The company paid a reported $2 billion for Sunday Ticket this year and has some fun plans for how people can watch games.
I asked Christian Oestlien, YouTube’s vice president of product management, to give us some tips and tricks for how to get the most out of YouTube’s football programming. (Did I do this just so I can watch football all Sunday and call it work? Who’s to say.) Here’s what he came back with:
- Toggle between YouTube and YouTube TV with the same account. Whether you subscribed to NFL Sunday Ticket through YouTube or YouTube TV, you’ll be able to connect your account on both platforms to unlock more features, such as live chat and polling on YouTube and unlimited DVR and the live guide on YouTube TV.
- Catch replays of all NFL Sunday afternoon games. Subscribers will be able to watch condensed on-demand replays of all local and out-of-market NFL Sunday afternoon games, available as early as midnight after the games air to Wednesday night.
- Avoid spoilers with spoiler mode. On YouTube TV, hide scores for specific sports teams and leagues so you can avoid information such as final scores or live previews from appearing before you’re ready to start watching.
- Connect your NFL fantasy accounts. Link your NFL.com fantasy accounts to YouTube TV so you can keep up in real time with your team and league performance while watching your games.
- Filter your multiviews. If you want to browse multiview combinations that include a specific game, start playing the single game and click down to find the “multiview” section in the player. You’ll then see multiviews that only include the currently playing game.
I sometimes wonder how anything in Jennifer Pattison Tuohy’s house actually works. Luckily, she’s better at it than I am. She’s The Verge’s expert on all things smart home, which means she’s constantly rigging up new systems, installing new sensors, and trying to do things like set her smart oven to automatically bake a turkey every time she opens the garage three times in four hours. Or something, I don’t know.
I asked Jen to share her homescreen with us, hoping it would reveal the true chaos that comes with all her smart home testing and reporting. It’s even better than I hoped. Here’s Jen’s homescreen, plus some information on the apps she uses and why:
The phone: iPhone 14. I like small phones and small iPads (preferably in purple), so I find a standard-size phone with an iPad Mini that can fit in my purse the best combo.
The apps: I currently have 364 apps on my phone. I didn’t realize how unusual that was until an informal survey of The Verge crew put me at about 150 apps more than most of my colleagues (only one other person was even close… David). But it’s the price I pay for a life as a smart home reviewer, where every gadget I test generally requires downloading a new app.
I manage this chaos by using the swipe down and search function 90 percent of the time, but the top two rows of apps on my homescreen are surfaced by the Siri Suggestions widget. This is surprisingly effective in offering up the right app at the right time. I use two mail apps (work and home), Life360 is how my family keeps track of each other (Apple‘s Find My is just… bad), and the ATP WTA Live app is for the US Open. I’m currently testing robot vacuums and security cameras, hence Roborock, Tapo, and Eufy Security.
The second two rows are my constant go-tos — Slack for work, Evernote for throwing my life and work into quickly, and Todoist for the same but in a slightly more organized fashion. I’ve been using Evernote for over a decade, and while it has its flaws, it also is my life, literally. Citymapper is the best app for navigating any city in the world, and having just been in Berlin for IFA and London, Bruges, and Paris for fun, it earned itself a spot on my homepage (for now).
Then, the main three smart home platform apps I use for testing — Amazon Alexa, Apple Home, and Google Home — are always on my homescreen. (I also use SmartThings but test that on a Galaxy S22). Untappd is on my homescreen as my neighborhood hangout spot uses it for their daily tap menu. And in the dock, Phone, Safari, Messages, and WhatsApp.
The wallpaper: Pets and kids would be on my wallpaper if I could, but as I take so many screenshots that I publish in my articles, I prefer something less personal. I love the “Earth” live wallpaper that updates based on where you are. (I’ve been traveling so much recently that it’s actually been helpful in reminding me where I am when I wake up bleary-eyed and jet-lagged.)
The widgets: World Clock, essential for keeping track of deadlines when you’re in a different timezone from your boss, and the Apple Podcasts app. I’m a huge podcast addict and am never without one chattering away at me.
I also asked Jen to share a few things she’s into right now. Here’s what she came back with:
- The US Open. There’s always tennis on somewhere, and I am always watching it. Right now, it’s the US Open, the last Grand Slam of the season, and it’s been a corker of a tournament, which wraps up with the women’s final this Saturday and the men’s on Sunday. About a year ago, the Association of Tennis Professionals launched the ATP WTA Live app, and it’s the best place to easily access every current tournament’s draws, scores, and schedules in one spot. It gets heavy use by me from January through mid-September, when college football takes over.
- Ed Sheeran’s Subtract. His latest album really hit home for me, and I even added it to my smart home “morning work” routine (a high honor for an album). I’m eagerly anticipating Autumn Variations, which comes out later this month.
- Trust by Hernan Diaz. My book club roped me into this, and it’s been a fascinating read so far. I’m only halfway through, but Diaz’s portrayal of a brilliant mind slowly descending into madness is fascinating and chilling.
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.
“One of my favorite websites is Deku Deals. It brings together the PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo stores and allows you to track games that are on sale really easily. You can sign up for email alerts whenever a game is discounted. They also have an iOS and Android app in development. The beta is available through their Patreon and has cemented a homepage space on my phone. – Jon
“Omni Crosswords fetches daily crosswords from major outlets without you having to subscribe to any of them. The only con of this app is that it does not have a hint system. If you like playing tennis games, Australian Open Game is a decent game to kill some time.” – Shivam
“The bookmarking app I never see but highly recommend is Pinboard, which markets itself as ‘Social Bookmarking for Introverts.’ It’s blazing fast because there are no images or lazy loading; it’s just webpages with text links you can add notes and tags to — that’s it. The extensions are great, you can sync to Instapaper and Pocket to extend its ‘Read Later’ functionality, and it’s only $22 a year and promises no tracking or ads. Have I mentioned it’s fast? That’s what did it for me. Every page loads instantly.” – Ethan
“Regarding link buckets: I was a longtime faithful user of del.icio.us (and then Pinboard) for many years, but maintenance on Pinboard has slowed to a halt in spite of its subscription pricing. This led me to seek out alternatives, and I eventually settled on linkding. This is a bookmark bucket service that you must host yourself, which may be an impediment to the majority of your readers, but I love it.” – Josh
“I want to recommend an app I am obsessed with these days: it’s called Yuka. It allows you to scan food items, and it rates food about how good / bad that food is and why.” – Shubham
“I’m really enjoying Read.cv and their little social network app Posts.cv — mostly centered around designers, but it’s fun seeing all the apps and web design all these people are coming up with.” – Christopher
“New World on Netflix. A Korean reality show on a ‘utopian island,’ sort of like a video game turned TV show. They’re gaining virtual currency, and then one of the contestants finds out he can rewind time and undo all the gambling. Fun, inventive, weird show.” – Glenn
“Came across Finalist on Threads, a really slick to-do app that works well for my brain. Focused on daily lists that are easy to carry over, just recently released.” – Rigel
“Who Is Erin Carter? Netflix. Brilliant.” – Faisal
After literally a year of having it pinned on my to-read list, I finally sat down and plowed through The Wrap’s huge retrospective on what happened with the movie John Carter. It’s a really interesting read and made me wonder how many more movies might have gone through the same chaos. And there’s a surprisingly rich genre of YouTube devoted to this exact topic! I’ve been plowing through the channel “It Was a Sh*t Show,” which chronicles all the mess behind everything from Mad Max: Fury Road to Cats to Arrested Development. The stories are wild, the videos are great, and I’m now completely convinced that it’s a minor miracle that anything good ever gets made at all. But I’m glad it does.