Backstage: Tiger kills first day’s productivity, then raises it

When it first arrives (ordered direct from Apple) a day ahead of schedule, then installs smoothly onto all three of my computers, Mac OS X Tiger is 75% thrilling, 25% frightening. Within minutes of finishing each machine’s installation, it’s already making significant progress in indexing each of my hard disks, making metadata connections between files that I can’t quite believe. Search the files on my computer by the person who originally sent them to me? Yeah. Simultaneously pull up a flight tracker, dictionary, Japanese-to-English language translator, currency converter and the Yellow Pages with one press of the F12 button? Yup. Today is the day I can’t get anything done because I’m too busy learning how to work smarter for the next two years.

And then there’s the new iChat stuff. My old “microphone-enabled” icon now looks like a stack of three icons to indicate that I can have multi-person voice chats. The one chat I’ve tried this morning with an iLounger in France was clearer and better-sounding than any I’d had with the last Mac OS. And Mail just looks ten times better than before. All of my information, sorted however I like it, with video and audio that’s better than ever before coming from multiple directions at once.

That’s the scary part. This had better be every bit as secure as they’ve been promising. Because the last thing I want is to have my super hard drive indices accessible to random people – or not-so-random people – via the Internet. Tiger is about to enable an entirely amazing new level of simplified personal computing, but in the wrong hands, its tools could also make personal hacking and snooping far more dangerous than ever before. After seeing how Microsoft nosedived over the past 18 months, I’m trusting Apple not to let hackers find ways to abuse these tools – and certainly hoping that the company doesn’t do anything foolish like that, itself.

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