11 mins read

Balatro: the ultra-complicated card game that will take over your weekend


Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 27, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. (If you’re new here, hello, you’re awesome, and also, you can read all the old editions at the Installer homepage. Oh, and send me some recommendations! The more the merrier!) 

This week, I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed Nexus on the Quest 3, reading about obsessive ramen makers and Noah Kahan’s journey to TikTok superstardom, finally watching Dune so I can be ready to see the sequel, also finally watching Patriot, and trying desperately to learn to make crispy Brussels sprouts.

I also have for you a mega-viral new camera, a better way to manage your smart home, a new book about Twitter, and a whole bunch of awesome games to play this weekend.

And I have a question. What’s your favorite food-related stuff on the internet? I’m talking recipe apps, cooking blogs, creators you like, shows you can’t get enough of, those silly people who exclusively cook rage-baitingly bad stuff, anything. We’re going to do a whole food-internet issue here in the next few weeks, and I want to know everything you like. (Thanks to Michael for suggesting this, too. This’ll be super fun!)

(As always, the best part of Installer is your ideas and tips. What are you reading, playing, watching, charging, transmogrifying, or building right now? Tell me everything: [email protected]. And if you know someone else who might enjoy Installer, or you want to get it in your inbox a day before it hits the web, you can subscribe here.)

The Drop

  • Balatro. Roughly two-thirds of the internet appears to be into this game right now: a poker roguelike game in which you use special cards to upgrade your hands and build your deck to solve puzzles. It’s complex and delightful. (This was by far the most popular recommendation this week — thanks to everyone who sent it in!)
  • The Fujifilm X100VI. The sequel to the internet’s favorite camera is here, and it is gorgeous. (Obviously.) The big news this year seems to be that you might actually be able to get your hands on one — and the early reviews seem to say it’s as good and fun as ever.
  • Elle Cordova. I have sent Cordova’s “Inventions hanging out” video to approximately half the people I know this week. You might have seen their “Fonts hanging out” series, too. This is my kind of comedy. 
  • The Amazon Echo Hub. It’s so telling to me that this even needs to exist: a $180 dedicated device for controlling all the stuff in your smart home that doesn’t require you to constantly unlock your phone or yell at a voice assistant. Buttons! Single-purpose devices! You love to see it!
  • ButterDocs. I am so into this: a Google Docs-like collaborative writing app that also has a bunch of really useful outlining and notes-app-style features like backlinking? Yes please. $100 per user per year is… a lot, but there are some really cool ideas in this app.
  • Formula 1: Drive to Survive season 6. If you like racing, you already watch this show. But even if you don’t care about F1 or cars or racing, the sheer human drama here is just spectacular (and at least… mostly real). And if you watch it and get super into F1 like I did, hit me up. Let’s talk McLaren.
  • Battle for the Bird. More Twitter books! This one is a great companion to Zoë Schiffer’s Extremely Hardcore. Kurt Wagner has tons of Elon Musk drama, of course, but also spends a lot of time on the pre-Musk era at Twitter, particularly Jack Dorsey’s deeply weird leadership style and legacy. There’s some overlap between the two books, but I’ve been enjoying both.
  • Share Spatial Everything. A crowdsourced database of spatial video and panoramas to give Vision Pro and Quest 3 users cool stuff to watch and look at. It’s like scrolling through a travel-heavy Instagram feed, but all the pictures are humongous.
  • Sonos co-founder John MacFarlane on How I Built This. Sonos is such a weird company — it’s based in a beachy town in California, has resisted so many of the normal trappings of tech companies, and just kept chugging along. But there’s still a ton of drama, a lot of it unresolved, in this story. (I’m also digging HIBT’s new AI series so far.)
  • Signal usernames. Signal is trying to move past the phone number, because phone numbers are both incredibly useful and incredibly problematic things to use as usernames. You have to download the beta to get a username for now, but you should! And hit me up: I’m davidpierce.11.

Screen share

Francesco D’Alessio might be the only person on the planet who has used more productivity apps than I have. He has a website, Tool Finder, dedicated to the best of them and is perpetually reviewing new stuff on the Keep Productive YouTube channel as well. 

I asked Francesco to share his homescreen because, in part, I wanted to see if he uses a nutty number of to-do list apps. (Alas.) I also wanted to see what had actually stuck for him; when you’re using new stuff all the time, it’s a big deal when something actually manages to become a part of your life and routine. So anything on Francesco’s homescreen had to really earn its slot.

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

The phone: iPhone 15 Pro.

The wallpaper: A picture of my wife and little ones, blurred, as I review a lot of productivity apps. 

The apps: Spotify, Camera, Amazon, Apple Health, Huckleberry, Whoop, Messages, Todoist.

People expect me to have every single productivity app. I’ve reviewed over 750 in the last 10 years. I use very little. I think people think the car salesman sometimes drives all the cars. I do, but I keep to a basic few. That’s really the key to productivity apps. 

  • Huckleberry is a genius app my wife and I use to manage our 6-month-old — we used it with our now four-year-old to manage sleep, nap predictions, feeding patterns. As new parents, we were tired and shared the load, so it was nice not having to wake each other up each time we do feeds, etc. and seeing it all in one spot. This is as hacky as I get as a parent. Lifesaver. 
  • I used Whoop for two years, then had a one-year break, and now am back on again using it. The impact it has when you know how your body is working in the background is insane. I use it daily to really pinpoint how to improve routines, sleep quality, and track new habits. This is my ultimate productivity app. 
  • Todoist: I’ve been using it for 10-plus years now. Ideas, thoughts, links get saved here into one base. Just a special place for me to constantly manage workload. 

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

  • The Money Lab. Love this podcast. Matt [Giovanisci] is back with talking about his business and the business of marketing. Very interesting.
  • Models of Ferraris. I started a collection of model Ferrari F1 cars from over the years, some from the 1950s to 1980s. I’ve started to get a nice collection. 
  • Weight training. My co-founder at Tool Finder taught me how to lift weights, and ever since, I actually do this routinely two to three times a week, so great to see progress.
  • Sleep. I enjoy this a lot. Just getting used to it with two little ones now.

Crowdsourced

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] or message +1 203-570-8663 with your recommendations for anything and everything, and we’ll feature some of our favorites here every week. 

Pocket Card Jockey on the Nintendo Switch is one of the best versions of solitaire.” – Steve

“99% Invisible has a deep dive podcast on The Power Broker with a new episode out each month. It’s a biography on Robert Moses, ‘the man who built New York,’ doubling as an interesting look into why the city is as it is. The intro episode features Conan O’Brien.” – David

“I am coming up on my 600th consecutive day where I play a round or two of It’s Literally Just Mowing. Yes, I am in my 50s.” – Jeff

Street Fighter 6 is on sale, and I bought it because it has a new control scheme that feels more like Smash Bros. with standardized movesets so you don’t have to learn individual combos. I don’t think you can use every special move this way, but it’s a way easier on-ramp since I haven’t played since SF II.” – Ian

“That Borderlands trailer…” – Matt

“Been going old school lately with Fruit Ninja. The difference between the free version on my kid’s Fire tablet and the Classic Plus version in Apple Arcade is amazingly stark. No ads, no pushing in-game currency, nothing but PLAYING THE GAME. REVOLUTIONARY.” – Martin

“This week on the pod, you made a comment about smart watches only ever being a giant computer on your wrist — which I completely agree with. Although Garmin has one (the Vivomove Trend) in their current lineup that looks really nice! I really like how they integrate the LCD with the watch.” – Daniel

“A new season of a UK quiz show called The 1% Club started up, and it tests your logic skills with puzzles and abstract thinking. Really fun show!” – Bob

“Everyone has a week to play (or replay) the Final Fantasy VII remake before the new one comes out.” – Andrew

Signing off

Apple launched a new app, Apple Sports, this week, which I find completely fascinating. It’s either a simple thing with a good idea — just tell me the score of the game and let me move on with my life — or a signal that Apple is ready to get really deep into the sports world. And maybe the betting world. But we’ll see where it goes.

Right now, though, Apple Sports is missing a lot of stuff. Which gives me a good excuse to tell you about my favorite “just tell me the score” thing: Plain Text Sports. It is ultra-simple, blisteringly fast, shows scores and stats from all over, and leaves you alone. I have it bookmarked on every device everywhere (always in dark mode), and I can’t recommend it enough. 



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