19 mins read

Call of Duty Warzone Mobile and 3 Body Problem: the best things to do this weekend


Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 31, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. (If you’re new here, welcome, hi, sorry for my bad taste in TV, and also, you can read all the old editions at the Installer homepage.) 

This week, I’ve been reading about LA crime rings and AI music tools, watching March Madness even though all my brackets are already busted, watching the story of Mickey Mouse and pretending I don’t care about Love Is Blind while my wife watches even though I’m now kind of obsessed with Love Is Blind, and trying to understand all the basketball terms LeBron James uses in his new podcast.

I also have for you a huge new Netflix show, a super-cheap USB charger, a newish messaging app, the new X-Men series everyone’s excited about, and much more. Oh, and I have some news: if you’re in Chicago or looking for a reason to be in Chicago the weekend of April 13th, I’m going to be there with a few of my friends from The Verge doing an afternoon of AI-related stuff at the Chicago Humanities Festival. It’s going to be fun; get tickets and come hang out!

Alright, jam-packed week. Let’s go.

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

The Drop

  • 3 Body Problem. From the co-creators of Game of Thrones, this is a sprawling sci-fi thriller about spies, theoretical physics, geopolitics, and much more. (I just realized that actually makes it sound a lot like Game of Thrones.) The reviews so far are good, not great, but I’m psyched about this one.
  • Threads in the fediverse. I want so badly to make “the Threadiverse” a thing. So badly. But I digress: this is cool news! Threads is starting a real beta rollout allowing people to post on Threads and syndicate it through the fediverse via ActivityPub! This is the social networking stuff I believe in.
  • Dune: Part Two Director Denis Villeneuve Breaks Down the Sandworm Scene.” I’m sure I’ve said this before, but “watching people do their jobs really, really well” is my favorite genre of YouTube. And if you’ve seen the new Dune flick, you’ll be as blown away as I was by just how thoughtful, and how difficult, this scene was. 
  • Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile. This game took up most of the storage on my phone and makes it heat up to about the surface of the sun every time I play. But this is a proper high-end battle royale game on mobile, and I’ll be playing it (with a controller, like a sane person) a lot this weekend.  
  • The Ikea Sjöss charger. Ikea’s gadgets are like Ikea’s other stuff: not fancy, not super exciting, but cheap and reliable and totally good enough. This new USB wall wart might not charge your laptop super fast, but a $15 two-port USB-C charger is a darn good deal.
  • Beeper for Android. After the whole iMessage saga, Beeper is back to building excellent cross-platform messaging apps. Its latest Android app is in public beta now, and it’s great. Fast, simple, lots of handy organization features. Who needs iMessage, really?
  • Stardew Valley 1.6. I confess, I never really got into Stardew Valley, but that’s clearly a me problem: the game is at record player levels right now after dropping a huge update with a new farm, a bunch of new stuff you can do, and… mayonnaise. And the game’s on sale right now, too!
  • Power User. Taylor Lorenz, a great reporter (and friend of Installer) just launched her new podcast this week, and the first episode is a really fun whip around the internet — from TikTok bans to Facebook pokes to Shrimp Jesus, which I just learned is a real and horrifying thing. (I suppose I should disclose that Taylor’s working with the Vox Media Podcast Network on this one. So there’s that!)
  • What is AI Pin?I find the AI Pin, and frankly, Humane’s whole thing, really interesting. The company has been sort of weird and mysterious for the last year, but this video — which seems to suggest the Pin is shipping really soon — is the most compelling demo and explanation I’ve seen yet.
  • X-Men ‘97. The X-Men are so back. It has a new animation style, an updated version of the intro and theme song you might remember from the ’90s, and a vibe that will feel good and right to anyone who missed this show during its long absence. I forgot how much I loved it until I was right back in it.

Spotlight

Want to know the single most productive thing I’ve done in the last few weeks? I went and found every single rewards card and gift card in my house, basically everything I have with a barcode on it, and scanned them all into an app just by taking pictures of each one. Now, I have all those cards with me at all times, which means that the next time I stumble on a Chipotle, a Cold Stone Creamery, a Starbucks, or the concert venue a few blocks away from my house, I’ll actually be able to use these cards.

Seriously, I cannot recommend this enough. Gift cards are a nice thing but a terrible user experience — one study last year found that Americans leave billions of dollars unspent every year. In my case, that’s mostly because I just… never have them with me. (My wife, on the other hand, carries them all everywhere, in an enormous wallet, and can thus never find the ones she needs.) You should do it! Some tips:

  • There are a bunch of apps that can do this, but on iOS, I did it with the app Barcodes, and on Android, I used Stocard. Stocard’s “offers” are kind of incessant and annoying because the app is trying to be a rewards program in its own right, but in general, I like both apps. 
  • You can do some of this in Google Wallet or Apple Wallet, but those interfaces are weirder and less reliable, in my experience. If you don’t want to use an app at all, you can probably just use a folder of photos, but the apps make it all better.
  • You might be amazed how many things you can put in here. Anything with a code you scan — a gym pass, a Costco card, the thing you use to get into a parking garage, any QR code — can go in there. All the swipe-y magnetic strip stuff, though, no dice.
  • Barcodes has some really great widgets, and I’d set one of them up with your most-used card. So, like, Starbucks + grocery store + parking garage, all super easy to access. (It’s also really handy on the Apple Watch.)
  • I’ve seen some stories about scanners, especially old ones or ones at an angle, that can’t quite scan a code on your phone. I haven’t had any issues yet, but maybe don’t throw away your most important cards just in case.

It’s very possible I’m the last person on the planet to learn about these apps and get this done. But I’ve already had it come in handy a bunch of times, and I’m actually using all my various cards instead of just leaving them in my desk drawer and occasionally wishing I had them on me.

My only real product request would be to be able to use my phone’s NFC chip for key fobs and other tappable cards — and hey, there’s a whole antitrust case about that now. It could happen.

Screen share

A real phrase I heard someone use to describe Chris Grant the other day is “heat pump influencer.” It’s a pretty good descriptor, actually. Chris is one of the handiest people I know, the proud owner of a truly remarkable retro gaming rig, and the group publisher for both Polygon and The Verge. But I think, in his heart of hearts, he might just want to talk heat pumps all day.

I asked Chris to share his homescreen, curious which of his many interests would shine through. Are there… heat pump social networks? How many legal-ish emulators would he have? Chris contains multitudes, but he only has the one homescreen. Here it is, plus some info on the apps he uses and why:

The phone: I use a Pixel 7A for a bunch of reasons, but chief among them is… it’s affordable. I really think smartphones are commodities. The 7A does everything I need it to do, it has an excellent camera, and if I accidentally toss it into the ocean, it’s not a catastrophic financial loss. 

The wallpaper: My wallpaper is a picture of my boys and my niece and nephew crammed into my bakfiets (a Dutch front-loaded cargo bike). We use the bike for school drop-off every morning and for any neighborhood kid transport. I added a Bafang motor to it last year, which has extended its utility even further, but it was still leg-powered when I took this pic.  

The apps: Weather, Photos, Home Assistant, Sonos, Puzzmo. Notion, Joplin, Slack, Keep Notes, Calculator, Discord, Phone, Messages, Gmail, Chrome, Camera.

My actual homescreen is blank, with the exception of the fixed row of apps and the Google search bar built into the bottom of the Pixel launcher. I really enjoy the simplicity of keeping my Google Discover feed one window to the left, my pinned apps one window to the right, and the entire app library one swipe up. But that’s boring, so I’ll share my pinned apps window, which is… kind of a mess.

I want to start with Google Photos, which is easily one of my top-used apps every day and was a major reason I got an Android phone. There is nothing more important than the pictures on my phone, and I’ve stored them in Google Photos for a long time. 

Home Assistant is another frequently accessed app. I use the Android “Device controls” drawer for a lot of things, but I also like to just mess around. If you think my homescreen is a mess, my Home Assistant dashboard is actually criminal. No, you can’t see it. 

I have Sonos here, in part to visually remind me, “Hey, remember music? You can play it sometimes.” I still forget. Slack is… well, you know what it is. Opposite Slack is Discord, which, in my brain, is quite specifically not-Slack, so this makes sense. Puzzmo! I really like the crossword, and Typeshift and Flip Art, and and and. You should play Puzzmo with me! 

My only folder: Synology. This is for my NAS. While I, like you, probably, trust way too much of my life with cloud services run by companies that I don’t really believe have my best interests in mind, I’m trying to be more thoughtful. My pandemic treat was a NAS, which I use to host all sorts of things. I’m cautious about what’s exposed to the web, versus just my local network, and I still often default to cloud services (see: Google Photos, above) but all in all, I aspire to be a personal cloud kind of person. 

I use the Calculator and Weather apps a lot, so what?

The note apps. I (like David) am constantly looking for the best tools to organize my brain. After being an Evernote user for over 15 years (!), I finally decided it was time to move things off as prices increased and their focus on just being a reliable place to store notes and documents wavered. I settled on Joplin, a serviceable alternative with some notable limitations, most notably, its markdown-heavy UX and its mobile app, which struggles to surface everything I have in the Joplin Cloud account. Maybe this goes self-hosted? 

Notion, I enjoy using, but I don’t know that I will ever trust it with the sheer volume of data I had in Evernote (and now Joplin). And lastly, Keep is… an app. It stores our family shopping list, which is all it has to do, I suppose. 

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

  • MiSTerCade. I recently got a Sega New Astro City arcade cabinet, which is the kind of really indulgent purchase I’ve put off forever, and somewhere in that pandemic haze, I decided it was time to just do it. I also got a MiSTerCade to actually play games on (you can read my primer on MiSTer here), and wouldn’t you know it, I’ve had a hard time dismantling the thing because it’s just so much fun to play. 
  • Heat pump hot water heaters. I am just really excited about heat pumps and the electrification of our heating infrastructure in general. I’ve helped close to a dozen friends and neighbors replace their dead or dying gas or standard electric units, three of whom were this year already. If you’re reading this, consider the 30 percent IRA tax credit, whatever local utility rebates you might be eligible for, and the annual cost savings inherent in a technology that literally generates more energy out than you put in, a magical principle known as the coefficient of performance. Add in some renewable energy sources — say, rooftop solar? — and you’re taking a meaningful bite out of your annual energy consumption. 😍(Editor’s note: I TOLD YOU.)
  • Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown. The storied Prince of Persia franchise morphing into a Metroidvania platformer shouldn’t feel this seamless and obvious, but somehow, it does. I’ve found myself poring over the game’s massive world as I slowly chip away at its map, chase its challenges, and scour its secrets.

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. 

This video on the engineering details behind Apple’s new $130 USB-C cable.” – Vinay

“You mentioned that Proton is the best non-Gmail alternative, and although I do agree that it’s not bad, many sites don’t like Proton, and a lot of people in the privacy community have voiced issues with it. I personally have Fastmail, and I love it. It’s about $60 / year for my plan, and it comes with up to 600 aliases, so I have one for all major businesses that I interact with (banks, trash company, and so on), then some ones for specific types of businesses.” – Anthony

Queue is great for tracking shows and movies you want to / are watching and to find new things. I use it all the time.” – Mike

“Checking in a few weeks after iOS 17.4… Transcripts on Apple Podcasts is shockingly good. I’ve fully converted over from Pocket Casts. Ability to quickly scroll through and read an article when I have a few minutes is amazing. There are a couple quirky things that the stock Podcasts app does that I don’t like (no badges for unplayed episodes, downloads don’t delete right away after played, etc.), but I’ve made my peace.” – Omesh

“I just left Evernote after more than a decade of use. Stagnant, bloated, and increasingly overpriced since new ownership. Switched to UpNote and very happy with it so far.” – Kirk

“Watching Shōgun. Enjoying it so much, I am replaying Ghost of Tsushima.” – John

Stray Shot, a twin-stick arena shooter where your missed shots spawn into more enemies. There’s a timer, and with too few enemies, your score will be low, but too many will probably overwhelm you. There are eight arenas with multiple enemy types and a few different game modes. Single or multiplayer.” – 301

“Got back into playing Risk on iOS. I basically just play very quick games against the computer every now and then, and it’s fun. I just ignore all the in-app purchase stuff they’ve added to it since the last time I opened it.” – Julián

“I have to plug Mars After Midnight on the Playdate.” – Scott

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer. I highly recommend the book, as it was just an incredible account of the Lincoln assassination, from the plot to the shooting and the escape.  Of course, I will check out the miniseries as well.” – John

Signing off

The up arrow on my keyboard is stuck. I could probably figure out how to fix it, but I’m choosing instead to take this as an excuse to buy a new keyboard. (Plus, the last time I tried to fix my keyboard, I broke it even worse and bought a new one anyway — I figure, this time, I’m just cutting out the middleman.) 

I’ve never been a mechanical keyboard fan — too loud! — but I’m realizing that if you’re not into mechanical keyboards, all your choices are kind of boring. I’m worried I’ll just end up getting lazy and buy Apple’s Magic Keyboard. (In black, natch.) Maybe it’s time to get a mechanical keyboard and just be obnoxiously loud all the time? It’s probably time. Wish me and my wallet luck.



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