Until lately, if you sought to watch a video on your computer, it was more drawn out than a “B” movie on late Saturday night with commercials every ten minutes. This was due to the fact that the videos were buffered. Buffering refers to downloading data prior to playing the video. If a network is fast enough to keep up with the playback, buffering is not necessary. Along comes streaming video with a decoder, which works as part of a Web browser, allowing the viewer to watch an entire TV show or movie without buffering pauses.

Until 1976, if you wanted to see a movie, the theater was the place to go. With the introduction of the VHS tape, you could purchase a copy of a movie and watch it at your leisure. In 1995, the DVD improved the resolution of movies and quickly took over the market. The “Terminator” movie was one of the first movies released in 2006 on the much improved Blu-ray disc, which surpassed the DVD in sales by 2007.

Today, we have media servers, which can stream a movie directly to your computer or television. A media server contains not only a massive hard drive but the software that delivers data to your computer or television. On a movie site, such as Netflix, you select the movie or television show, and their Web server sends a message to the streaming server, telling it which movie you selected. The streaming server sends the movie directly to you, bypassing the Web server.

Streaming servers use a protocol that allows the transfer of the movie in real time. You then have to have a player that can accept the streaming, such as PS3, Xbox, Wii or other devices.

Most of us use a cable or satellite company to receive our television programs. Both methods are expensive and have drawbacks, which we all know about. The next step in the media evolution is “Internet television.” “TV on demand” allows the user to select a movie or TV show from a directory, and stream the show to the user’s computer or flat panel TV. If you have a HD set, you can watch a HD program.

Many broadcasters offer a catch-up service, which is available for a week or more after the show’s original broadcast. This gives you the ability to view a program that you missed without having to set the DVR to record the show. This is a distinct advantage now that TV shows do not finish at the end of an hour as they used to. Now, TV shows run into the next hour, and the DVR cuts off the recording before the show actually ends.

HD television (720+) requires higher bandwidth and faster connection speeds. Standard TV needs 500 – 1500 kbps, whereas HD requires 3500 kbps. Here are a few of the Internet television providers in the U.S.: ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, PBS, TV Land, Hulu, and Telemundo.

To watch your favorite shows, such as Bones on Fox, go to www.fox.com and click on Watch Full Episodes; look for Bones, and click on the episode that you wish to watch. The final date that you can watch the episode is also listed. The other networks have a similar setup. Just remember, these are broadcast networks and commercials abound.

While Netflix, Amazon VOD, Best Buy’s CinemaNow, Blockbuster, Hulu Plus, imovies Club, Redbox and Vudu offer a wide selection of movies, there is a charge for their service. Netflix, Hulu Plus and Redbox have a monthly charge for unlimited views, while Amazon VOD, Blockbuster CinemaNow and Vudu charge per view. iMovies charges a one-time fee for a set period of time.

While the above mentioned services have the advantage of showing the most recent movies, you can still stream many movies from several free sites, such as Hulu, which is owned by Fox and NBC. Hulu has easy search features, and is not limited to Fox or NBC content.

You Tube has some movies that are free, but to view most of the more recent films there is a charge from $0.99 – $6.99. All though we know You Tube for the many home made videos, over 150,000 full-length movies are downloaded every week.

Even when a site claims to have free movies, the movies come with commercials, which could be distracting. Such a site is Crackle, which presents a 30-second commercial prior to the start of the movie and then additional 15-second commercials every 20 minutes, just like watching TV. I’ll gladly pay the monthly fee and avoid the annoying commercials.

If you are a Comcast customer, you probably won’t find any different programs on xfinityTV.com. xfinityTV has free movies, but you won’t find the movies that Comcast offers for a price on cable. Of course, there are many good movies that were not very successful commercially, and you can find these on xfinityTV.

If you like to roam through different types of video on one site, Joost might be the one for you. Look at movie trailers, comedy, shorts, action and sports. Check out the top ten horror movie shorts, or TV Guide celebrity interviews. See fan reviews or catch the latest documentary films. You can even checkout your favorite animals at U-Zoo.

If documentaries are your cup of tea, go to SnagFilms.com and learn about the “Secret Life of Cats,” or maybe “Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think.” SnagFilms finds the world’s most compelling documentaries for free viewing with topics, such as immigration, military, history, elections, sports, technology, crime and many more. It is easy to find a documentary film that targets a cause that you support. SnagFilms even has an iPod app. There is no downloading or software installation necessary; just a decent broadband connection. You can open a virtual movie theater in your webpage, Facebook, or MySpace page.

I am a fan of old time movies and Television shows. If you are, go to TVclassicshows.com for the best in old time shows. Stream movies like “Casablanca Express,” “All Quiet on the Western Front,” or Ursula Andress in “Slave of the Cannibal God” (oh well) for free. For us old folks and kids who enjoy the neat classic shows, you can watch Zorro, Lost Jungle with Clyde Beatty, One Step Beyond, Dragnet, Howdy Doody and many more. Now you can keep your kids entertained for hours without worrying about the content of a TV show.

Babelgum.com is a good place to view free, high quality independently made films and videos. Babelgum is trying to give recognition to films and artists that are not yet acknowledged. They have narratives, documentaries, long and short films, trailers, festival winners, cult classics (like the 50’s Attack of the Giant Leeches), plus original series. Babelgum is definitely different.

I’ve tried to give you an idea of the rich material that is on the Internet for your enjoyment. There are many more sites that offer free, subscription and pay-for-view entertainment. All you have to do is search for the kind of programming that you like, as there is a site at hand that will accommodate your tastes.

The Internet is positively the new television. So much so, that we are using our computer and Internet ready boxes more for entertainment than anything else. And we can get this entertainment just about anywhere that we have broadband service. While reality TV is taking over the cable and satellite systems, we can branch out and find the shows that we really want to watch, when we want to watch them.