Digital Thingamajigs
Get the scoop on the latest mobile and handheld devices, high-tech gadgets, phones, gaming devices and more as well as computer-related tips and tricks. Keep up with tech trends, gaming software and check out some of the newest innovations that are turning heads in the electronics industry.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Part I: Streaming online
Getting movies and TV shows streamed into your living room has gotten a lot easier over the last few years. If you can live without a few basic conveniences that cable offers, and you have high-speed Internet service, you can easily drop the cable TV subscription and still watch most of your favorite TV shows and movies at a fraction of the cost.

First of all, there are a million sites on the Web that claim to offer online streaming. Most of those, however, only offer links to other sites, such as Hulu, and the legality of many of those is questionable. That's why I just want to focus on Hulu, Netflix and touch on today. These are the most popular legal online streaming sites available today. And until viable alternatives crop up, these are the most reliable and legit online streaming services.

Hands down, the absolute cheapest and easiest way to get streaming is with Hulu. Hulu can be accessed via most current Web browsers at and can be used for free indefinitely. Free Hulu is limited in that most TV series only have about 4 or 5 episodes available at any given time. It also mainly just has TV series from NBC, Fox and more recently, ABC networks. Alternatively, you can sign up for Hulu Plus for $7.99 a month and get access to thousands of TV episodes. For example, a popular show such as Family Guy currently has 154 episodes and the entire Lost series is also available to stream via Hulu Plus. Also, if you're not ready to pay for Hulu Plus, you can sign up for a one-week trial of the service for free.

After Hulu, the next easiest way to start streaming video content is with Netflix. Like Hulu, Netflix now has a stream-only subscription service available for $7.99 a month. The main difference is that Netflix is for the big-screen buff and is more focused on movies instead of TV shows, however that is starting to shift, and could soon change. But for now, Netflix does not have as many current TV episodes as Hulu. There are many classic TV shows and older episodes available for streaming, but the TV content is not nearly as fresh as with Hulu, and even some of the older series are only available on DVDs via the mailer service. Still, there are many movies available for instant viewing via Netflix that you simply can't get through Hulu. And choosing between the two simply comes down to whether you're a TV nut or a movie buff — or if you love 'em both.

Is that all there is?
As I stated earlier, there are many services cropping up daily trying to compete with Hulu and Netflix, and aside from CBS's online streaming service, most are questionable. currently allows streaming of entire episodes of many of CBS series as well as some of the series from CBS Corp.-owned Showtime, such as Dexter.

Keep in mind that this list is a basic online streaming starter and is in now way close to being a comprehensive list. There are many services to choose from to stream video content from the Web and there are also many different methods of getting them onto your TV. Come back Wednesday evening for the third part of my series on setting up a home media center when I will discuss the different types of software available to make streaming even easier, more organized and an overall more aesthetically pleasing experience.