It's not that netbooks are barely functional with only 1GB of RAM, it's that Windows 7 is barely functional with only 1GB of RAM... especially with an Atom N270/GMA950 setup, then you're throwing Silverlight and streaming video at it...
You load Xubuntu on this thing, it'd mostly purr like a kitten... but you'd lose Silverlight and Netflix support.
But if you don't want to go that far, you can make windows less slow by turning off all the totally unnecessary junk that they have running by default. There is a lot. A LOT. If you hit Cntrl+Alt+Del, and go to task manager, Processes tab, with no programs open there shouldn't be more then maybe a dozen or two things listed. Most computers, fresh from the store, will have a good 3 or 4 dozen, none of it serving any real purpose, and all of it using up RAM.
Of course, you have to know which ones to turn off, and how, and fortunately a magnificent saint of a person who goes by the name Black Viper goes through every single default process on every single release of Windows, and figures out what they are, whether they need to be running, and then posts all this information on his website for free. Google Black Viper, enjoy your faster computer.
I'd like to know why the free version of Hulu can't be watched on Roku.
Because they need to have something to entice you to pay them money. It is a business, afterall.
Tami, I don't do streaming Netflix, but there is one idea that still hasn't been mentioned yet. You noted that it does it with some Youtube videos as well, but not all, which I think keyed me in. Netflix defaults to Best Quality with their player according to their support website. The problem with their "best" quality is that it's basically their HD video stream, and the player only throttles the quality setting based on your network connection, not the playback hardware. Your laptop can clearly stream video and handle playback, just not HD quality video. Re-configure the video quality settings on your Netflix player on that laptop to "Good", that may get it for you. If not, you might be able to throttle your data connection to the laptop down to around 1mbps off your network's router to get the video quality the rest of the way down to make it work.
As for other video sites, keep the video quality around 360p or set to a lower bandwidth like 750-500kbps or lower or the "low" video quality setting... ideal video quality playback for your video chipset's going to be somewhere around those numbers. You won't get razor sharp detail, but as I've said before, seeing the hair growing out of Bob DeNiro's mole doesn't make Heat a more enjoyable film.
Actually, with a netbook, there will be no quality difference anyway - the numbers refer to how many distinct pixels worth of data are sent. If you don't have a screen with 2 million pixels, the screen won't show Hi Def, even if the quality setting are set for it and the computers graphics can handle it.
The Emachine netbook only has about half a million pixels, so at best you can see about 1/4 the resolution of true HD, even under the best possible conditions.
Its hard to say what bit rate corresponds to what screen size, because of complications with compression, but you are likely to see no difference between highest quality and medium quality settings (besides for which, they don't list the bitrate, just "low medium high").
Try it out, maybe low quality will be as good a picture as medium as well.
And finally, make sure your connection speed is high enough - not everyone gets the speed they pay for, and if other people (or background programs) are using bandwidth it may be lower still. If you are using a wireless router, that could make your connection slower than using a cable. Go to speedtest.net, try it once wireless, once connected directly to the router with a cable, make sure whatever configuration you are using has a good amount higher speed than whatever bit rate you are trying to stream video at