If the OP really wants to use the computer as a desktop he should (must imho) go for a window manager. Something in the lines of dwm or ratpoison.
With this he'd be able to run console based apps like mutt, screen, xterms,rtorrent and such. And even Opera as a web browser.
However the ideal use for such an old computer would be to make a firewall, file server and print server or even to serves your P2P needs with a web based multi-protocol app like MLDonkey.