Re: What's up with the desktop?
Right-click the desktop, go to Desktop Settings, and change the desktop type to 'Folder View'.
Either that or add the Folder View widget to your desktop.
KDE 4 is very nice, but it is a complete rewrite from the 3.5 days you will be used to from older versions of Ubuntu.
I try to treat the cause, not the symptom. I avoid the terminal in instructions, unless it's easier or necessary. My instructions will work within the Ubuntu system, instead of breaking or subverting it. Those are the three guarantees to the helpee.