i want to thank the easy linux tips project for these tips for speeding up ubuntu! i spent the morning re-installing gd's machine because i discovered, to my surprise, that wubi is a VIRTUAL installation.
so i downloaded an iso and used the startup disk creator on my flash drive, feeling quite relieved that gd's computer's modern enough to boot off of usb. i tried installing chrome, but the package was flagged as not having passed muster; so it *was* chrome that was messed up on my last update! firefox it is, then.
the most important tip on the aforementioned list was actually the most gratifying: switch from unity to gnome*. i haven't used gnome in forever, but not only is it more friendly and customizable** but the performance difference was dramatic. now i'm going to do that for my netbook and live happily ever after ^_^
* switch to gnome after modifying the startup programs. but only because gnome-session-properties isn't mentioned in the document.
** if you remember that you have to hit alt and right-click on a panel to modify it.