With access to those live channels, the Windows Media Center can act as a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). It has the Tivo-like properties to record all your favorite shows and let you pause and rewind live TV. Once you buy the antenna (less than $50) and connect it to a PC that has Windows Media Center, you pay nothing for this over-the-air TV.
The Jameses get most of their TV shows and sports via the Internet connection they have hooked into their computer. Debra James pays for a higher-speed connection to get really fast access.
Tom Merritt, an editor at CNet, said, "If you want to stream movies and TV shows you should have at least a 3 MB second connection. For that, you may need to pay $5 to $10 a month extra for a 'boosted' connection."
Once you have fast access to the Internet, finding your favorite shows is a bit of a patchwork quilt. You have to search for your favorite shows at different locations.
The major networks all have their own sites for streaming premium programs. ABC.com offers high-definition versions of shows like "Lost" or "Desperate Housewives," but the episodes may become available online slightly later than they air on regular TV.
For sports, the Jameses use ESPN360.com. The choices for watching premium sporting events from all over the world are amazing: cricket, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and, of course, college and pro basketball, football, baseball -- the list goes on.
Big events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics have their own streaming sites and deals, so this is where you have to be an active researcher to find what you want.
To watch movies from the Internet, the Jameses subscribe to Netflix. They pay $14 a month and they can watch as many movies as they like on demand from the thousands of movies Netflix has available online.
You can subscribe to this service for as little as $9 a month, but the Jameses added a few extra benefits. See the Netflix site for current pricing deals. You also can stream movies a la carte from sites like Amazon.com.
The Jameses also can resort to a physical movie disc, if they like. Their Media Center PC has a high-definition DVD player built in for any discs they want to watch.
Internet video quality has improved greatly in the last six months. It's not all perfect, but it's a lot better than what many people imagine.
"I've had people come and we're watching ESPN 360 or Netflix and they think we are watching TV and it's not. It's the computer and they are really amazed," Debra James said.
Tom Merritt from CNet agreed.
"There's a perception that Internet video is cat-on-a-skateboard looking, kinda blurry," he said. "But the fact of the matter is that you can actually get high-definition video if you have a fast enough Internet connection, full screen to fill a 60-inch screen."
The quality of the sports and movies the Jameses showed me was very good. It filled their TV full screen and looked great. There were a few moments during a basketball game where the video hiccupped and paused, but they said that was very unusual.