HTPC to replace cable!

Hello everyone. I want to build an htpc and cancel my cable. I plan on running ubuntu and using boxee and hulu desktop. I'll hook it up to my hd lcd tv. I've only built one computer in the past so I could use all the help i can get. I want something that will both last a while and will be upgradable. Since i plan on canceling cable i won't need tv tuners or an excessive amount of hard drive space. (i also already own a 1tb external). Can someone please point me in the right direction or give me some pointers?

Thanks in advance for your help, here is the info:

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE:within the next four months.

BUDGET: I'd like to keep this to $400.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: streaming hd and non hd video, playing recorded video, music, internet, word processing, general amusement.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: OS (ubuntu), monitor (hd tv)

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: any trustworthy site, although i've used newegg and tigerdirect in the past


PARTS PREFERENCES: i'm looking for cost effectiveness here, and don't have any particular brand loyalties. Any trusted brand. I'd prefer micro atx case, but could go atx if it saves a lot of money.

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: don't even know what this is, so no.

MONITOR RESOLUTION: i'm not sure, i think it is 1920 by 1080

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I'd like it to be relatively quiet since it will be on the shelf next to the tv, i'm also considering finding an old timey radio or something to mod for the case, as i was having a hard time finding a decent looking case for a decent price. My wife is not computer literate and also has very low vision. therefore she gets frustrated with computers easy and won't tolerate/understand things like lag or latency in menus etc. is it possible to build a machine that can run smoothly for that price? The other thing i was considering was a dell inspiron zino hd if I can't build something better for less but i am unclear as to how it would perform for this usage.
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More about htpc replace cable
  1. If you're looking to record in HD and get a full range of channels, then forget it. If you're OK with sketchy on-air local HD channels and the TV shows that are available online, you may be happy.

    IMO the days of building a PC that is equal to a DVR are gone unless they get cable-cards working properly with HD.
  2. I'm not really interested in it having dvr functionality. I'm happy with what is available for free online. I just need a machine that can handle it.
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