Ali Abdaal’s travel gear for creators

Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 23, 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 reading about the sudden rise in freight train heists and the strange state of Air Jordans, watching Jon Stewart’s Mark Twain Prize speeches all over again, wondering if I should buy an original Macintosh on eBay instead of continuing to pay my mortgage, scheming to get my hands on the “real” Star Wars lightsaber, tracking at-home workouts with Weller, and trying to replace doomscrolling on my phone with the Chess.com app

I also have for you a new show from the Silicon Valley creator, a(nother) new calendar app, the hottest new game on the market, a camera worth lusting over, and much more. Let’s get to it.

(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, forward it to them, and tell them to subscribe here.)

The Drop

  • Masters of the Air. Okay, so, I need you to clear your weekend schedule. Because first, you’re going to rewatch Band of Brothers, which is exactly as good as you remember. Then, you’re going to watch The Pacific, finally, which you kind of forgot about until recently. Then, you’re going to fire up Apple TV Plus and watch this show, the newest in the kinda-series. Sound good? Good. See you Monday.
  • Lumiere. Google Research just kind of quietly dropped a new image-to-video AI model, which it calls “a space-time diffusion model for video generation,” which is an extremely cool thing to call it. As far as I can tell, you can’t actually use it yet, but its results look pretty impressive.
  • The Hasselblad 907X & CFV 100C. Quite the name, and quite the price — $8,200! — but also quite the camera. As smartphone cameras continue to eat everything, I love watching high-end cameras get even more beautiful, even more impressive, and even more… real? Non-AI-y? Whatever you call it, it’s all camera and no shenanigans, and I love it. (Also, my colleague Becca Farsace made a super fun video about this thing.)
  • The mint Pixel 8. I own a black iPhone, and it’s boring and lame and I wish it looked a lot more like this. Bring back phones with cool, vibrant, unusual colors! I don’t know that I’d buy this one — I mean, Pixel 9 leaks are already happening — but I dig the look.
  • Palworld. Technically, I should have mentioned this last week, but it became such a phenomenon this week that we just have to talk about it. Pokemon! With guns! And dubious legal standing! This game is on a historic popularity run, has a weird road ahead of it, and you better believe I will be putting in some hours this weekend.
  • Twenty Thousand Hertz: “Into The Huluverse.” This podcast has done a bunch of really great deep dives on tech sounds over the years, like the Netflix sound and the noises electric cars make and the omnipresent TikTok narrator. This one, on the sound you hear every time you open Hulu, is another great entrant in the series. 
  • In the Know. About once a day, I wish Silicon Valley would come back to HBO. This is the closest I’m gonna get, I think: Mike Judge and Zach Woods made another satire show, only this time, it’s animated and about NPR. I’ve only seen the first episode, which feels extremely “internet in 2024”-y. In a good way. Mostly.
  • Transcripts for Apple Podcasts. I’ve been a very happy Pocket Casts user for a long time, and this feature — which generates transcripts for every episode you listen to and scrolls them live like they’re song lyrics — is the first thing I’ve ever been jealous of. Every podcast app should do this.

Setups

Last week, I asked you to share what you use to read the news. Or not even news, really, just where you go when you want to know what’s new, what’s going on, what’s the haps. (Sorry for saying “what’s the haps.”) I’ve gotten some great answers and thoughts, and next week, we’re going to dive into that — keep ’em coming to installer@theverge.com. Tell me everything.

This week, I want to do something a little different. On The Vergecast this week, I talked to Ali Abdaal, a creator and author (and doctor!), all about his new book, Feel Good Productivity, and what it means to be a productive and happy and fulfilled person on the internet. Or if it’s even possible.

At the end of our chat, we talked a bit about Ali’s new life as a digital nomad and the gear he’s using to make everything work while he’s on the road. That bit didn’t make it into The Vergecast, but I figured I’d share here. So here’s Ali Abdaal’s setup for life as a creator on the road:

  • An Away suitcase, medium sized.
  • The Peak Design Travel Backpack, with two camera cubes inside.
  • In one cube: a Sony A7S III camera. “My main filming angle.”
  • In the other cube: a Sony A7C. “With a 50mm lens, with an extra lens. That’s my photo camera, and it means if I want to do a podcast, I have double cameras, double angles.”
  • Two mics: a Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun mic and a Shure MV7 podcast mic.
  • A Falcon Eyes Rollflex light. “It’s a rollable LED panel with a softbox that folds down into like a third of a half of a suitcase. People are always like, ‘Whoa, how does your camera look so good?’ And it’s because of the light. That light is incredible.”
  • A Manfrotto Nano light stand. “Which weighs almost nothing.”

Along with all of that, there’s also the requisite set of cables and dongles and an extension cord. Ali says the whole thing just manages to get underneath the 50-pound limit for checked luggage. He’s also carrying a 14-inch MacBook Pro and an iPad Pro in a Peak Design Everyday Sling. And in the course of our chat, I convinced him not to throw it all away and buy a giant gaming laptop, which he seems to desperately want to do. I told him to just get a Switch instead.

Screen share

One of my favorite new apps in a while officially launched this week. It’s called Amie, and it’s this delightfully designed, slightly bonkers take on managing your time. And after talking to Dennis Müller, Amie’s founder and CEO, I learned he’s up to some really interesting stuff in the calendar space. 

I also learned Dennis has strong feelings about software design and how we ought to interact with all our digital stuff. So I asked him to share his homescreen, guessing it would be carefully curated and nicely designed. Other than one outrageously long folder name that makes me itchy to look at, I was right.

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

The phone: iPhone 15 Pro, titanium.

The wallpaper: Apple’s weather one, I LOVE the ambience it provides. I think that design will move a lot more into this direction (and also align with what Brian Chesky said about bringing more depth into design that is unequal to skeuomorphism).

The apps: Photos, Health, Google Maps, Safari, Dennis, Spotify, Chrome, Apple Maps, Amie.

Especially notable is probably my JOY folder. As the name says, they’re there because they create a feeling of joy for me. Often not functionally, but more through their design, interactions, etc. Some of the apps inside are:

  • Noto is a lovely indie note-taking app built by a Pinterest engineer. Very interesting scroll interactions and overall interesting information hierarchy.
  • Haptic is a small app designed by my friend Alexey Sekachov. He is one of the best designers I know.
  • Ice Rage is a random old game I love. Hasn’t been updated for many years and is still GOATed.
  • Zenly. RIP. 
  • Honk and Family. Benji Taylor (and team) are setting the bar on design, especially UI and interaction.
  • Dennis, an app I built for myself. I believe modern artists use software, not paint. It’s an app with the simplest interface ever. It uses your camera, and there are no buttons. You can press anywhere on the screen, and that will record a 0.2-second clip. You keep doing that until you have ⇐10s collected. You can export it into a jump-cut video, auto-underlaid with music (so the cuts happen on beat). I want to build two apps as artwork with no other aspiration: one called Dennis, the other will be a game called Müller. I think it’s a bit sad people don’t put their name on their creations anymore. This may have actually lowered the bar for quality. 
  • Amie: hehe my fav 🤍

I also asked Dennis to share a few things he’s into right now. Here’s what he came back with: 

  • My favorite article on the internet is on Stardew Valley by GQ.
  • I wish everyone used the Hemingway app to improve their writing. Mainly to shorten sentences.
  • I’m obsessed with @nikolaisavic on TikTok. His video transitions are crazyyy.
  • This Are.na board was a huge inspo for us.

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

“Loved the first episode of Delicious in Dungeon on Netflix — beautifully drawn, delightfully unhinged, absolutely earnest.” – Jordan

“Something dead simple but so helpful — a shared Reminders Smart List on iOS. My gf and I moved in last fall and wanted an easy way to keep track of groceries as we alternate who goes. Nice use of AI without trying to be more than a shopping list.” – Connor

“I was looking for a new comfort show, so I have started watching Superstore. It’s an incredibly funny and heartwarming show. And it’s very addictive.” – Tirth

Luck be a Landlord. I’ve been spending too much time playing this silly game. It’s a perfect 10-minute break game.” – Tara 

“Started back my (however-many-I-lost-count) rewatch of Psych, with the added benefit of increased playback speed on my iPad.” – Sean

“I’m really enjoying the memoir Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs! Steve Jobs’ daughter shares a personal, more down-to-earth experience with the person the world idolizes. I think it humanizes him, which doesn’t necessarily detract from his impact on the world but makes it more well-rounded. It’s been very compelling!” – Ben

“If your jam is videos of experts showing you their process, I strongly recommend Baumgartner Restoration on YouTube.” – Gaetan

“The iOS game QSWaterMelon : Monkey Land has been taking over my life for the past couple of weeks — it’s very intuitive but has more strategy than first appears and is insanely addictive. My mom, who has never played a video game in her life, is hooked!” – Mohsin

“I am currently reading SuperBetter, which is a book about the power of games and how a gameful approach to life would do us good. Also, I have been watching Citizen Khan, a British comedy show about a British Pakistani named Mr. Khan.” – Clive

“Really been enjoying building and rebuilding my Neo70s, in-stock FRL TKL keyboards.” – Noah

“For anyone else that is dropping Castro in the wake of its recent troubles, I’d like to recommend Airshow. While not a direct replacement for Castro’s Inbox, I’ve been able to approximate that feature with Airshow’s playlists. It took some work, but I’m happy with it!” – Mike

Signing off

This week is the 40th anniversary of the original Macintosh launch, which is a pretty cool milestone for a pretty cool computer. I’ve been watching Mac stuff all week: the launch event itself, the epic 1984 ad, MKBHD’s fun “Retro Tech” episode on the Macintosh, a two-hour retrospective with some of the people who helped build the thing, and more. There is so much tech history inside this one little computer, it’s wild.

Also, everyone’s been sharing stories about their first Macs, so here’s mine. I grew up on Windows, and when I decided I wanted a Mac, I didn’t have two nickels to rub together, so I went on Craigslist and bought a Power Mac G4 Cube. I think I paid like $150 for it. This was in 2009, when the Cube was already seven years old. It barely worked, looked so cool, and I loved it to bits. I’ve always had a Mac around ever since — but none are cooler than the Cube.

By 111 Tech

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