Stream your TV--Jasmine's Tech Dos & Don'ts

Get schooled by CNET editor Jasmine France. This week she gives tips on watching and downloading video on the Web.

Jasmine's Tech Dos and Don'ts

It's only a matter of time before the prevalence of online video makes cable television obsolete. In fact, the time has already arrived for some of us: I've been living very happily without TV for nearly two years. Of course, the experience still needs some tweaking before it's going to woo mainstream users away from their cable subscriptions entirely. In the meantime, however, there are several ways to make Web watching more enjoyable.

First off, DO check out free and legal streaming video sites such as Hulu and Fancast. Yes, they do still have commercial breaks, but they dedicate much less time to ad space than on traditional TV does.

Also, DON'T forget that many network Web sites, including Bravo and Comedy Central (to name but two), stream their shows directly from the affiliated Web sites. South Park even has its own site--southparkstudios.com--where you can stream every episode from the show's entire run.

If you're serious about ditching cable, DO keep an eye on online video subscription options. Currently, Netflix is the only really solid option in this space, and in addition to offering streaming movies, it also has many TV shows available to watch online. Hulu Plus is also on the horizon, and I expect that we'll see more offerings over the next couple of years. There are two main benefits to a subscription: you don't have to watch ads, and there's usually much more content than on free sites.

Roku HD screenshot
The $100 Roku HD Player makes streaming Netflix to your TV easy. CNET

Of course, there are plenty of legally gray places to stream otherwise-unavailable video, but DO be careful with those. The Web is crawling with questionable sites--and I'm not talking about content in this case. One of the quickest ways to infect your system with a virus is to download a file from unknown sources.

To avoid the hassle and heartbreak of a sullied hard drive, DON'T download videos from sketchy sites, especially those based in other countries. If you want to take the guesswork out of it, DO download Avast. This excellent antivirus software is completely free and will prevent you from even accessing any unsafe sites.

All this Web watching--with its plethora of options--is great, but doing it sitting at your desk or squinting at your laptop can take the shine off the experience. DO think about getting a network-video streamer if you watch a ton of online video. Even better: kill two birds with one stone and get an Xbox 360 or a PS3.

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