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I run Slackware on a Toshiba NB100 netbook and have also tried xubuntu (from a usb stick). It performs well with either - maybe the gnome desktop is the issue?
After all, although the remix is customized it is still a full ubuntu desktop system.
I am not sure why ubuntu chose to use gnome for a netbook? Xfce on Xubuntu is far more zippy and has more than enough for a minimalist notebook. I have also tried puppy linux on my toshiba netbook from a usb stick, and it runs like a greyhound.
Switching into traditional desktop mode results in the following error:
An error occurred while loading or saving configuration information for gnome-panel. Some of your configuration settings may not work properly.
Failed to contact configuration server; some possible causes are that you need to enable TCP/IP networking for ORBit, or you have stale NFS locks due to a system crash. See http://projects.gnome.org/gconf/ for information. (Details - 1: Could not send message to gconf daemon: Message did not receive a reply (timeout by message bus))
If you are not sure what state it is in, it may be easier to simply backup your data and reinstall the OS. If you have /home on a separate partition it is a 30minutes job.
or You can re-install with the terminal: "sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop"
You should not lose anything. The full install should reload the OS and all the programmes into the /root partition. All your configurations for the applications are hidden files in the home partition, so if all goes to plan when you boot up it should look like your custom system. Unlike windows.