Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 9, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. (If you’re new here, hurray! I’m so happy you’re here, and also, you can catch up on all the old editions at the Installer homepage.)
This week, I’ve been reading Zeke Faux’s excellent crypto book and the story of the viral cookies that suddenly disappeared, trying desperately to figure out what the heck the Humane AI Pin actually does, pouring all my notes and tasks into NotePlan, watching the new-to-Netflix season of The Great British Baking Show and anything at all I can find about The Sphere in Vegas, and am on like my fourth week of being totally obsessed with the history of the AltaVista search engine.
This week, I also have for you a new smartwatch, a great new Spotify feature, several new games to dive into, a recipe app, and some new book recommendations.
I also have a specific question for you: What do you use to track all the stuff you want to watch, read, and listen to? Do you have a bunch of apps? Some lists? A wild Excel spreadsheet? Your own memory? Nothing at all? I want to know all your media-tracking tips, and I’ll share a bunch in next week’s Installer. Send an email to [email protected], text me at (203) 570-8663, or find me on all the socials.
In general, of course, the best part of Installer is your ideas and tips. What are you into right now? What app should everyone know about? What show / podcast / game is everyone missing out on? Tell me everything: [email protected]. And if you want to get every issue a day early in your inbox, you can subscribe here.
Okay, we have a lot to get to this week. Let’s go.
- Google Pixel Watch 2. Google launched the Pixel 8 phone lineup this week and some cool updates to the Pixel Buds Pro headphones, but I think the new $349.99 watch is the best new thing of the bunch. More battery, more processor, more sensors, more Fitbit software under the hood — this sounds like the Apple Watch competitor the Android world really needed.
- Assassin’s Creed Mirage. I haven’t played this one yet, but I hear great things, and I love me some Assassin’s Creed. For years, it’s been basically the same game, only relentlessly bigger and more confusing, but this Egypt-set installment appears to be a return to its relentless form. This is my long-weekend project — one of them, anyway.
- Forza Motorsport. My other long-weekend project. An ultra-realistic, ultra-detailed game with endless side quests and upgrade tasks is pretty much everything I can ask for in a racing game. Now I just have to figure out how to sneak a full simulator rig into my house without anyone noticing…
- Spotify audiobooks. I don’t love the way audiobooks are integrated within Spotify, but I do love getting 15 hours of audiobook listening a month with a Premium subscription. That’s not a ton, but it’s roughly 1.5 Harry Potter books, almost exactly one listen through Ready Player One, or, you know, 1 percent of a Song of Ice and Fire book. Without any upcharge! That’s something! Audiobooks are too expensive, and this is a nice change.
- The Rewind Pendant. This is straight out of sci-fi: a device you wear around your neck that records everything you say and hear, summarizes it, and tells you what matters later. Awesome? Horrifying? Who knows. But Rewind is definitely one of the most interesting companies in AI.
- Loki season 2. Loki and Wandavision are easily my two favorite Marvel shows from the last few years, so I was psyched to see Tom Hiddleston back as the universe’s favorite long-haired trickster. And unlike so many Marvel things recently, Loki’s second season is pretty good! I might even rewatch season 1 just to be fully ready.
- The new Microsoft Lists. Microsoft is quietly building a really great set of simple productivity tools — between the also-new OneDrive, the always-great To Do, and the new Lists app that’s great for everything from shopping lists to to-watch lists, the ecosystem here is looking pretty great.
- “This is financial advice.” Someday, I won’t reflexively tell everyone to watch everything Folding Ideas publishes. Today is not that day: this is a 2.5-hour video about GameStop, WallStreetBets, Bed Bath & Beyond, the modern economy, and much more. Watch it. Watch it twice. Take notes. It’s wonderful.
- The Pixel 8’s generative wallpapers. I’ve become a big fan of frequently changing my wallpaper ever since Canoopsy recommended it in Installer a few weeks ago. Google’s new tool, which uses generative AI to create a wallpaper based on your prompts, is a super fun way to quickly make a wallpaper to match any mood of the day. It’s Pixel-only for now but should come to more devices soon.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned in Installer that a new app called Orion had come out. It turns your iPad into a display for pretty much anything that uses a display, from a game console to a Windows 98 computer. It’s a simple concept, but Orion is a really fun and clever app.
I heard from a lot of folks (a lot of folks) that you were into Orion. So I asked Sebastiaan de With, the co-creator of Orion and Halide and other apps, to share a few unexpected tips and tricks on how to make the most of Orion. Here’s what he said:
- Tether it to your camera. “As a photographer, I use Orion with my camera when I am doing a small video production. We built a Halide update for the iPhone 15 Pro Action Button, and while recording a video tutorial, I set up my large 12.9-inch iPad Pro as a monitor so I can verify my manual focus is sharp and exposure looks great.”
- Daisy-chain your screens. “An extra tip with that: I actually sometimes AirPlay my iPad screen to my MacBook Pro or TV if I want to check Orion’s video monitor on an even bigger or closer screen. It works super well, and it’s pretty awesome. I’ve even shared my screen before so a friend could see what I was up to!”
- Screen-record all the things. “With Screen Recording on, I tap to hide the Orion chrome and record a full-fledged bit of video from my camera or gameplay for easy sharing. I really dig this feature.”
- Bring retro gear back. “It’s a little thing, but I only waited until this week (since it has been iPhone season, a busy time for us) to play some old classics, and the CRT effects included in Orion Pro are a treat on larger iPads.”
- Make it a status checker. ”An unexpected use case I saw from people was that lots of folks use it to check on and keep their headless servers / setups running. A monitor that you can just plug in in a pinch is super useful.”
Taylor Lorenz is the most online person I know, which makes her extremely qualified to write a book called Extremely Online: The Untold Story of Fame, Influence, and Power on the Internet. It also makes it totally unsurprising that the book is excellent. She charts the whole history of the social web and the rise of influencers alongside it. I’ve been following this space closely for a long time, and I still learned a huge amount from the book. It’s out now; you should read it! And if you missed Taylor chatting with us on The Vergecast a few weeks ago, check that out, too.