When people think of the Internet usually they have their computer in mind, you know, surfing the web, checking email, things like that. But there is a new trend that is taking the Internet by storm and (once it's set up) it's fully accessible even without having your computer turned on.
The subject of this week's column is streaming television, movies, music and Internet videos to your TV over your Internet connection without a computer.
So, how is this possible? I mean don't you need a computer to access the Internet? How can you possibly watch Internet videos without a computer?
Let me cover the basics and give you a list of just what you need to take advantage of this new trend.
First of all, you need a high-speed Internet connection (DSL or cable, dial up will not do) and a router. The beauty of this is so many people already have high-speed Internet and wireless routers are becoming as common as cell phones so there is a good chance you already have the first pieces of the puzzle.
The next thing you need is a device that hooks up to your TV and is capable of tapping into your wireless router. Fortunately there are several out there.
Many TVs, Blue Ray players and video game consoles come Internet ready, but by far, my favorite Internet device is called a "Roku" box simply because it is so easy to set up, use and the price is right. The Roku (at $59.99 plus shipping) is a heck of a lot cheaper than any Internet-ready TV, Blue Ray player or game console out, there so I'm going to focus the bulk of this column on that.
Now, I said before that Internet TV works without a computer and this is true except for the set up. First you need to order one by going online to www.roku.com and you will find that they have three different models to choose from. The cheapest set, the Roku HD at $59.99 works just fine. It's not necessary to get the most expensive one to get the full enjoyment out of the device but you can splurge for the more expensive one if you want to.
Then, after the device comes, you have to take it out of the box, plug it into your TV and then into a wall outlet for power. You will have a choice to either connect it to your wireless router wirelessly or connect it directly to the router with a standard category 5 network cable (if your TV set up is close to your router). Then turn it on.
The only time you will need a computer is to set up accounts with different channels but once this step is done you can watch Internet content to your heart's content without needing to turn on your computer.
When you fire up the Roku for the first time it will ask you to go to the Roku website and create an account and generate a code. Once you have your account set up (it's OK, it's free and it's safe, no spam or malware threats on this site) and enter your code. Your Roku box will come up with its home screen and this is where it gets fun.
Use the remote's left and right buttons to select options and the center button to make a selection. You'll notice an icon called "channel store." Click on that and you will be presented with dozens of "channels" that you can add to your home screen. Now most of the channels are free, but there are a few of them in there (such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon) that are premium channels and require a monthly or pay-per-view fee. But the bulk of the channels are indeed, free.
If you already have a Netflix account then you can tie your account to your Roku box and watch streaming movies without having to add them to your queue. Just use the remote to navigate through the channels and click the movies you want to watch.
With channels such as Roku Newscaster, Crackle, Blip TV (and others) available any time for free, you may find yourself relying less on traditional TV and you may even discover new content that you never knew existed. I'm constantly discovering new things on mine.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (888) 752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).