Running the System Monitor will tell you what processes are taking 100% of CPU. While an Atom 1.66 is certainly not a high-end machine, a stock Ubuntu install does not peg the CPU.
If you see errors from cryptswap, did you opt to encrypt /home? Perhaps the initial encryption has not completed or has gone awry. (Running initial encryption on a partition will boost CPU usage until it's completed.)
Yes, I did choose that. On an earlier installation of ubuntu I found a solution for this problem online, but now I can't find it again. I don't think it's an installation error as it happened twice.
I strongly disagree with suggestions to alter swappiness in an effort to speed things up by preventing the use of the swap partition. Swap exists to provide, in effect, virtual RAM when processes need more memory than is physically available. It's a fundamental component of Unix/Linux and software is written on the assumption that it is there to be used. Yes, it takes time to write something out to swap and read it back in later. But, something has to give when processes need more than available RAM. If you don't allow swap to be used. there's no "give" available. In machines with a lot of RAM, swap will not see much use. In a 2-gig machine, it just might.
I thought the space on the HDD, the swap, was beyond the RAM, meaning there's still 100% of RAM available?
Startup programs and services should not be disabled unless you are certain they do not provide an essential function.
Yeah, same in Win. Only disabled BOINC. Strange thing is that now I can't uninstall it for some reason (via uSWC).
Preload caches -- stores in memory -- components of frequently used programs so they launch faster. Simply leaving programs open is even faster, and doesn't require using the extra space.
Ok, well I found that leaving programs open and then switching between them (alt+tab) takes a looooooong time. She doesn't like that at all (Charlene, my computer).
Unity requires Compiz, but not CCSM. Playing with CCSM settings is risky unless you know exactly what setting affect Unity and which do not.
I find the current version, 13.10, is faster with Unity than 12.04.
So-called lighter-weight versions of Ubuntu certainly exist, and might be a better fit for your hardware. However, those savings will come primarily from their use of applications with smaller memory footprints. The kernel and the essential libraries are the same on all Ubuntu versions, and, for teh most part, across all Linux distribution of similar vintage.
Ok, well maybe 14.04 will be worth a try when the time comes.