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Plus, in this week’s Installer: Jon Stewart and John Oliver, wild Lego setups, ultra-minimal homescreens, and much more.

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An illustration of the Installer logo with Legos and the Retro app in the foreground.

Image: The Verge

Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 33, 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 writing about the end of Google Podcasts and the rise of AI gadgets, watching Girls5eva and rewatching Middleditch and Schwartz, reading about the ubiquity of AllTrails and Danny McBride’s comedy compound, listening to Ezra Klein’s podcasts about AI, seeing if 5K Runner can finally make me like running, and playing altogether too much Retro Goal.

I also have for you a lot of people’s smart thoughts on AI, a bunch of new AI tools in web browsers, a fun new newsletter about good stuff on the internet, a big rant on delivery apps, and much more. Let’s go.

Oh wait before we do! I’m going to be at the Chicago Humanities Festival next weekend, on stage talking about creativity and AI with the co-founders of Wonder Dynamics: Nikola Todorovic and Tye Sheridan. (You might know Tye better as an actor, including as Wade Watts in Ready Player One. I have questions about that too.) Come hang with us next Saturday if you’re around! Okay now let’s get into it.

(As always, the best part of Installer is your ideas and tips. What are you excited about right now? What are you watching or reading or playing that everyone else should be, too? Tell me everything: And if you know someone else who might enjoy Installer, forward it to them and tell them to subscribe here.)

  • Opera’s local AI. I know, I know, every browser is doing AI stuff, and I keep bringing it up. But Opera’s doing something new and clever: it’s letting you download various open-source AI models to your computer, so you can do AI stuff in the browser but also fully locally. I dig it.
  • I Made a Graph of Wikipedia… This Is What I Found.”This video broke my brain in the best possible way. It’s just a narrator and a lot of graphs, but it shows how Wikipedia really works — the most-linked-to articles, the central topics of the platform, the funny dead ends. Wikipedia just keeps getting more awesome.
  • Brave Leo. Another browser AI thing! Brave’s Mixtral-based chatbot, Leo, is also trying to do AI in a privacy-preserving way, and I am always here for that. Leo’s now out on iOS, a couple of months after it landed on Android, which means you can use Leo anywhere you use Brave. It’s built into the browser in a really close, helpful way, too.
  • Jon Stewart On The False Promises of AI.” As succinct an argument against AI as you’re ever going to hear. And it’s not even really against AI, just against the hype cycle and the way it’s talked about versus the way it’s used. Also, Stewart’s interview with Lina Khan on antitrust and AI is fascinating — and full of good streaming drama.
  • Last Week Tonight on food delivery apps. Recommending both Jon Stewart and John Oliver: novel, right? Really breaking new ground over here. But this one is too good not to share, and not just because it prominently features The Verge. Delivery apps really don’t work for anyone involved, and Oliver nails the problem perfectly. And angrily.
  • Retro. I’m skeptical of this and every other would-be “Instagram but it’s your real friends again!” app. But I do like Retro’s latest feature, Journals, which brings a collaborative album-making system to the app. I kinda just do this in Google Photos, but it’s a smart add for any app like this.
  • The Gotham City Lego set. Four thousand, two hundred and ten pieces. I am obsessed with this thing and frankly a little intimidated by it. The $300 price tag puts it into serious luxury range, but this just became the first and only thing on my birthday list this year.
  • We’re Here. I don’t recommend other newsletters enough here, and I’m going to change that, starting with this one from Hank and John Green, two of the best people on the internet, which, at least so far, is just a compendium of weird, delightful internet stuff. Insta-subscribe.

Screen share

As part of writing this newsletter, I have a big folder full of cool homescreens I find on the web. (I should share a bunch of those here, now that I think about it — we’ll come back to that.) But very few things in that folder cause me to make the noise I made when I first saw Daniyal Ansari’s homescreen

It turns out Daniyal actually builds and sells these homescreen designs, along with icons and widgets and other stuff — and I found myself paging through them all, looking for tips on how to make my phone look as sleek and simple and cool as what Daniyal made. But I figured the best move was to go to the source, so I asked him to share some tips with us.

Here’s Daniyal’s homescreen, plus some info on the apps he uses and why:

The phone: iPhone 13 128GB in starlight.

The wallpaper: The wallpapers are solid backgrounds in colors that match the dock. The HEX code is #F3F3F3 for light mode and #242424 for dark mode. Doing this hides the dock completely, giving my homescreens a cleaner look. 

The apps: I try to keep my Home screen clean. The app I love the most is YouTube Music. It isn’t as popular, but the combination of YouTube Premium and YouTube Music makes a lot of sense to me. I keep the notes app handy, and I have different folders in it to dump information in a categorized manner. 

I create custom widgets using an app called Widgy on the App Store. It is an incredible app that syncs with built-in Apple apps and presents information like weather, calendar events, reminders, etc., with a variety of customization options, allowing you to create a look you want. I also use two apps called MD Blank and Transparent App Icons that let you create empty spaces on your homescreen (since Apple won’t let us).

I also asked Daniyal to share a few things he’s into right now. Here’s what he sent back:

  • The show I am into right now is Drive to Survive. I started following Formula One a few years ago and loved how engineering and sport come together. 
  • I am really into productivity apps and really enjoyed the Waveform episode with you. I have started using Notion Calendar, and yes, the three-day view is amazing. 
  • The creators I follow the most are MKBHD and StarTalk with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, but I want to especially mention David Imel. He has only five videos on his YouTube channel (he should make more), but the way he explains every concept is exceptional. It’s almost like he is a really cool professor who is very good at clearing fundamentals. His “How the Italian Renaissance can save the smartphone camera” is my favorite YouTube video of all time. As a post-grad in literature who is into tech, that video fits my interests.


Here’s what the Installer community is into this week. I want to know what you’re into right now as well! Email or message +1 (203) 570-8663 with your recommendations for anything and everything, and we’ll feature some of our favorites here every week. 

“With Artifact becoming a dead Yahoo product, I’ve moved over to Bulletin for iOS and Mac, which I am quite enjoying.” — Justin

“The way you described Tiny Desk as ‘everything delightful about the internet’ is the way I would describe Flavour Trip, a YouTube channel and DJ couple from Luxembourg. They stream their chill house music sets (often accompanied with live guitar) from locations around Europe. During the set, they also prepare a meal. Feels less like watching a DJ set and more like hanging out with friends. Here’s a recent favorite.” — Daniel

“Running my own personal, single-user Mastodon instance, courtesy of You can read about my experience if you’re interested.” — Mike

“If you like screamy music, we are in a golden age for it at the moment. The new Wristmeetrazor is a modern classic, the new Boundaries goes hard as hell, death metal vets Aborted dropped one of their best albums, melodic/tech death newcomers Carrion Vael dropped a great album, OG bands like Job for a Cowboy and Darkest Hour put out some of their best work ever. It’s just a great time to like music where everyone beats each other up at concerts.” — John

Godspeed is a very opinionated, keyboard-driven task manager — I think more people should give it a shot.” – Matt

“I love games that take two completely unrelated genres and mush them together. Peglin takes Peggle and turns it into a roguelike. The more pegs you hit, the more damage you do to enemies. There are different balls with different effects and power-ups you can collect. I’ve been playing it on my phone, and it’s a great way to kill time on the train commute.” — Voltaire

“I would like to recommend Listy. It’s a simple app for keeping lists. I started using it for tracking books, board games, movies, and TV shows. I used to use the stock Notes app for this, but Listy is way easier to use because you can just use the Share function of your browser to add a new entry.” — Péter

Picotron. It’s a bit niche, but for a certain kind of person, it’s gold. It’s a ‘fantasy workstation’ from the guy who made Pico-8. Still very early days and very buggy, but very exciting in this early time, almost like a return to the very early days of computing. People are building primitive web browsers and calculators and games for it already.” — Tom

Gideon the Ninth is the most fun, wild, crazy, engaging, can’t-put-down book I’ve read in FOREVER. Crazy plot… The eight feudal houses of the Emperor Undying, Necrolord Prime, send their necromancer adepts and cavalier primaries across the solar system to undergo challenges with the goal of becoming Lyctors to serve their emperor. Extremely descriptive / visual and perfect to depict as a movie or miniseries. Highly recommend!” — Tyler

Signing off

Here’s the least surprising thing I’ll write all week: I love videos about people’s setups. Studio tours, desk tours, homescreen deep dives, anything. I love it as a way to see how people work and think, and I’m convinced you can learn a lot about people by learning about how they set up their spaces, both virtual and physical, which is probably why I’ve now watched this video of Adam Savage’s “beautifully chaotic” studio about six times. The place is a mess and also carefully thought out and organized. There’s a story in there about every tiny scrap of everything. And it’s all about making things work, not making things pretty. I swear, there are like 60 life lessons just in this one studio. And now I also have a deep desire to buy table saws. This is going to be a problem.

See you next week!

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