new install

I am trying to install either ubuntu or xubuntu on a laptop. The laptop has a 1.5ghz processor and 256k ram (i think). It used to run xp home.
I have downloaded the live cd and tried booting from that with ubuntu the furtherst i have managed to get is to the desktop screen the default ornage one. however there was nothing else on the screen, no cursor or anything. with xubuntu. i have got as far as a circular cursor which will move around the screen which appears to be working as it is animated with a spoke that runs around the circle. However it doesn't go any further.
Both of these screens were reached after about ten minutes but then stayed the same for the next hour or so.

Can anyone give me any suggestions how to get linux installed and running please
FWIW i also tried fedora 12 and that didn't work either

Not enough RAM

Do you mean 256Mb, not Kb, of RAM?

That is certainly not enough to run Ubuntu. You either need to increase the amount of RAM or use a lighter disto.

Xubuntu should need to use the Alternate disk (because it is a straight install and only needs 64Mb to install) and not the Desktop disk (because it has to do two things, run a LiveCD AND install - so it uses much more memory for that)