The AI assistants are getting better fast

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Plus, in this week’s Installer: A new-old way to search Google, the fanciest mop ever, another iOS emulator, and much more.

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Photos of Legos, the ChatGPT logo, and a Dyson mop, over an Installer logo.

Image: David Pierce / The Verge

Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 38, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. (If you’re new here, welcome, so psyched you found us, and you can also read all the old editions at the Installer homepage.) 

This week, I’ve been writing about iPads and the future of Google, watching American Fiction and Bodkin, rewatching Her because of… reasons, endlessly replaying the songs of Windows95man, learning how to make better sandwiches, testing Claude for AI stuff, and listening to the new-old Childish Gambino album.

I also have for you a new AI model, literally thousands of new Lego pieces, a new way to Google, the fanciest mop you’ve ever seen in your life, more emulators for iOS, and much more.

And I have a question: What’s your favorite mini-game on the internet? I’m thinking about things like Wordle, The Wikipedia Game, Sudoku, Really Bad Chess, Name Drop, and a million others — the kinds of things you might play every morning with your coffee. I want to compile a huge list of everybody’s favorites, the sillier the better! I’d love to hear everything in your rotation. Reply to this email, email me at installer@theverge.com, or message me on Signal — @davidpierce.11 — and tell me all your faves.

All right, lots to do this week. So much AI! 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: installer@theverge.com. And if you know someone else who might enjoy Installer, and tell them to subscribe here.)

  • GPT-4o. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about OpenAI’s event this week, with the Her-like demo of the new voice assistant. It’s really impressive, kind of weird, and both delightful and creepy? I’m so torn. But the tech is impressive, and every AI app I’ve seen is already rushing to support GPT-4o.
  • ChatGPT for Mac. Desktop AI chat apps are a dime a dozen and mostly all just wrappers on a webpage. But the new ChatGPT app is a bit more: it lets you share your screen and ask questions about it, which strikes me as a very handy way to get AI help with something. “How do I fix this?” is a question I ask ChatGPT a lot. 
  • Historical AI & Rewriting the Past on TikTok.” Have you seen those videos on TikTok of an AI-generated emperor or whatever, telling you a salacious story about world history? They’re fun! And messy! And frequently just lies! Love this video on how it all happened and what it all means.
  • Lego Barad-dûr. Five thousand, four hundred and seventy-one pieces. Pair this withthe Rivendell setLego released last year, and you’ll spend about $1,000 and one very happy lifetime putting together a truly epic Lord of the Rings setup.
  • Google’s “Web” filter. I have a lot of big-picture thoughts about what AI is doing to web search and what that means for the internet, but I also just miss when Google was a bunch of links and not a thousand videos, X posts, and shopping links. The new “Web” filter is like old Google brought back to life — not right for everything but very useful.
  • ​​I Started a New Business. It Didn’t Go Well…I’m a fan of Ali Abdaal’s (he was in Installer a while back!) and really loved this video. He shares a lot of the kinds of stories you don’t hear about building products, failure, mistakes, challenges, and what happens when you just get it wrong. Lots to learn from this one.
  • Setapp Mobile. If you don’t already know about Setapp, a subscription service that gets you access to hundreds of Mac and iOS apps, you should check it out. Setapp Mobile, its new alternative app store, is EU-only for now, but it’s still a fascinating look at what’s possible when you open up the smartphone.
  • The Dyson WashG1. Explaining Dyson stuff always sounds so silly — “yeah, it’s like 4x the price of all its competitors, and yeah, it’s just a cleaning thing, but dude, it’s SICK.” But… this $700 ultra-fancy mop sounds sick. I can’t help myself. 
  • Hello, Dot. A new game from the Pokémon Go and Peridot folks, designed just for the Meta Quest. There’s not actually a ton to the game itself, but it’s a pretty great mixed reality tech demo, and these things are just fun to play around with.
  • RetroArch. The latest in an increasingly long list of great emulator apps coming to the iPhone. This one’s not the most user-friendly, but it does support a huge number of consoles and games — and it works on the Apple TV!

Screen share

My favorite new iPhone app this week is definitely Bebop, which is a really clever thing: it’s an app for taking notes, but it’s designed specifically to be used as a quick way to write something down for people who use tools like Obsidian, which is great but heavy and not good for short capture. Bebop just pipes stuff into a folder of text files, which you can read with any other app you want. I’m already using it a dozen times a day.

Bebop was created by Jack Cheng, who you might know as the author of books like The Many Masks of Andy Zhou and the very fun newsletter Sunday Letter. I’ve been a fan of Jack’s work for a while and figured his app launch was a good time to get him in Installer.

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

The phone: iPhone 14.

The wallpaper: My partner, Julia, taken at one of my favorite places: Kresge Court inside the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The apps: Photos, Gmail, Arc, Phone, Messages, Bebop, Blackmagic Camera.

Lock screen widgets: Fantastical, Weather, and Lightroom’s camera widget. I usually include a photo when I send out my Sunday newsletter, and I loathe the way newer-generation iPhones over-process everything. So I use this when I want a RAW image for later editing (and don’t have my Ricoh GR III on me).

Homescreen: A Widgetsmith photo widget that shows my workweek in index cards. I’m doing my first 12-Week Year and also experimenting with the cards for time-blocking. I plan out my week on Monday morning, then the cards stay on the table next to my desk. I refer to them when I journal, too. Both the 12-Week Year and card system I first saw in Dan Catt’s oddly therapeutic Weeknotes.

Dock: Third from the left is my own file-based notes app, Bebop! I built it after frustrations with over-bloated notes apps that deprioritized capture. Bebop’s my first iOS app, and it felt so good to be able to give it that prime dock spot.

When Apple announced Final Cut Camera, I wondered if there was something similar for DaVinci Resolve, and it turned out there was: Blackmagic Camera. I’d love to do some short video updates for my YouTube channel (which currently just has older videos of me reading from one of my children’s novels). But that’s a big project, for a future 12-week stretch. In the meantime, I’m accumulating little clips and figuring out a good workflow.

I have two other iOS screens: One for reading and audio apps (the only screen visible in Sleep Focus mode) and another for messaging and social media. Everything else is in the App Library. I use search a lot.

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

  • The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film is the best book I’ve read so far this year. It has so many insights on writing and making art, and I love the interview format — especially when the two conversation partners (the other is author Michael Ondaatje) are experts in their own domains. Which is why I’m also a Decoder fan!
  • Completely Arbortrary is, to me, a perfect podcast. Each hour-long episode is about a different tree, and for hosts, you have a dendrologist (Casey Clapp) paired with a musician / comedian (Alex Crowson) who stands in for the novice listener. Talk about evergreen content. (sorry)
  • I’m eagerly awaiting my preorder of Robin Sloan’s new novel, Moonbound. This happens startlingly regularly: I’m at the bookstore when a cover catches my eye. I read the flap copy and first few pages and get sucked right in. Then, I flip over to the back, and there it is: a Robin Sloan blurb. Robin has such a singular taste for the interestingly weird / weirdly interesting. He’s also a serial appreciator of things, which I appreciate!
  • My partner and I just finished the third season of Master of None, eminently watchable in large part thanks to Amy Williams’ gorgeous production design. The seasonal arc is an infertility storyline involving Lena Waithe and Naomi Ackie’s characters, which, because of our own fertility journey, hit a little close to home at first. But I’m happy that after two years of trying, Julia and I are expecting our first child this summer.

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. For more recommendations than I could fit here, check out the replies to this post on Threads.

“So every once in a while, I manage to get a hard drive full to the rim and need to clean up. That’s when I fall back on a really old piece of software from the Dutch University of Eindhoven called SequoiaView. I don’t think it’s been updated since November 2002, but I still find it the best way to quickly and visually localize big files. I wonder: does anybody else have such an old piece of software that still performs its task for them?” — Jasper

“I’m very late to Balatro and been playing that (and failing — how are people already completing the game and I can’t even get past the basic stakes for some of these decks lol) and trying to finish the new Vampire Survivors DLC.” — Melody

“I just re-downloaded the original StarCraft and can’t stop watching TikTok live videos of people playing some weird Russian Roulette PC game.”

“Downloaded Delta when it officially launched and realized how much I missed playing ‘simpler’ games. Amongst a few others, I was really enjoying Pokémon Fire Red. Fast forward a few days… and the Analogue Pocket had a very timely restock. Nothing to take away from Delta — it’s amazing and massive credits to the developer. I think I just want something a bit more tactile to go all in on some OG games.” — Omesh

Walkabout Mini Golf on the Meta Quest 3 is pretty awesome.” — Matt

“I’ve found that my screen time can sometimes rocket from using apps like Instagram and Twitter. To solve that, I found Ascent, which adds a sliding distraction screen whenever you try to open the app. You can get Premium for free by Instagramming about them, and it’s worth it because it’s so customizable!” — Leo

“One of Twitch’s / YT’s biggest creators Critical Role just launched their own direct support / streaming service, Beacon, but in contrast to the huge miss that was Watcher doing something similar last month, they aren’t paywalling any existing content. Super interesting move to skip established platforms like Patreon and DIY it. The new content on the platform is really cool for megafans!” – Zach

Fur and Loathing. I just started listening to this podcast about the gas attack in the 2014 furry convention, and it’s really good!” — Katie

“I’m watching the second half of Clarkson’s Farm season 3. If you’ve never seen it, you’ll be surprised by just how complicated it is to grow something in a field.” — Alan

Signing off

I’ve been sick off and on for most of the last two weeks, which has lots of downsides but one really terrific upside. It’s an infinite excuse to watch TV shows I’ve already seen 100 times! I’ve realized I have a rotation, not on purpose but somehow quite rigid: I watch The Office, then I watch Parks and Recreation, then I watch New Girl, then I watch Community. Sometimes one all the way through and then the next, sometimes a couple of episodes and then bounce around, but it’s almost always in that order. (Schitt’s Creek and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are the honorable mentions — they haven’t quite made it into the official rotation yet, but I love them both.)

Is this just a me thing? Does everyone have a few shows they just kind of instinctively bounce between when you don’t really care what you’re watching? Either way, I highly recommend my rotation. Infinite comedy, perfect for naps.

See you next week!

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