I have the same issue with ubuntu 12.10. I can not get the top or side bars.

I have no physical monitor since I'm using a VPS and I'm running tightVNC on windows 7 (32 bit version). I use fireSSH to get a shell.

On tightVNC I do a backgroud but no sidebar/launcher or topbar.

I can right click the mouse and get the popup to change the desktop background (which i can change) - hence, I can also get the "all settings" in that popup.

I can also press f3 and get the nautilus file viewer.

I'm hoping their is a solution or maybe i should just blow everything away and use 12.04...I'm thinking about it.