yes, i had tried those key combos as well. I found it kind of strange there was no way to get into the terminal by some sort of base kernel command or something. I found out I was actually running Linpus rather than Ubuntu
the yum install didn't really work for me, and it just got too complicated so I created a boot USB stick with the Ubuntu Live CD on it on my windows computer using unebootin-windows-248.exe and that's what I'm running now. It's a bit slow so I'm installing XFCE again to see if that makes any difference. it's a bit of an hassle, but fun to learn about these things.
thanks for your input!