When the doors to the Rossville Public Library open at 10 a.m. today, patrons can put their fingers on cutting-edge "cloud computing."
The library is retiring its hodgepodge of Windows-based personal computers and replacing them with 20 new Samsung Chromebox machines that came free of charge through a pilot program of the Georgia Public Library Service.
Rossville is the first library in the state to try the machines.
"We just stepped up to the plate and volunteered," said Lecia Eubanks, director of the Cherokee Regional Library, which has branches in Rossville, LaFayette, Chickamauga and Trenton. "We're excited."
Advantages the Chromebox has over the Windows PCs, library officials said, include not needing virus protection or having to update the operating system, because Google Chrome does that automatically.
Other advantages: The new machines "boot up," or turn on, almost instantly. They're much faster at browsing the Internet than the old PCs. Patrons who use the library's Chromeboxes for banking, bill paying or other personal uses don't have to worry about privacy, because once they click "exit session," the information is completely wiped away.
"The next person who logs in, they get a completely fresh experience," said Michael Canton, of the Atlanta-based business Cloud Sherpas, who was helping install the new machines Thursday.
The Samsung Chromebox has the size and heft of a jumbo sandwich. But as a theft deterrent, Canton said, the library has the power to remotely disable the machines and render them useless.
"The device will never be usable for anything -- except as a paperweight," he said.
Getting hang of cloud computing
Library employees will help patrons get the hang of the new machines. That will include urging library users to sign up for a Google account that comes with 15 gigabytes of free storage online in the "cloud" so documents, photos and other items can be stored there.
Patrons also will be urged to use Google Docs, Google's suite of programs for word-processing and other office work.
"Everything we had in the Windows environment, there's an equivalent in Google Docs," the library system's technology specialist, Wendy Cobb said.
The library will keep two Windows PCs for those reluctant to make the switch.
Rossville is getting the Chromeboxes, Eubanks said, because it's got the heaviest computer use of the four library branches. Patrons use the computers, library employees said, for everything from preparing taxes to banking to taking truck-driving license exams to printing airline boarding passes.
If the Chrome OS computers work out, Eubanks may buy Chrome OS laptops, which are called Chromebooks, for patrons at the new LaFayette-Walker Public Library that was due to open soon until construction stalled for lack of funds. The library system got about $20,000 earmarked to buy new computers as part of $2 million recently allocated statewide.
The Cherokee Regional Library System will share its experiences with the Chromeboxes at a statewide library conference on Sept. 12-13 in Augusta, Eubanks said.
Contact Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.