10.4, loose desktop after reboot

Following installation from CD to HD as auto login to 'bill' and the first reboot a full desktop appears on my screen and I can use some of the apps. When I reboot the PC, the screen comes up to the first color splash screen without any desktop, all icons are missing. I notice a right click has options to setup a app launcher but what happened to the full desktop displayed earlier?

Bill

Additioinal Info

Ubuntu 10.04 Desktop Installation from a downloaded ISO file of the same day to an old Dell PC. Ubuntu is on a clean hard drive, no windows O/S. Following a successful and uneventful installation to 'bill' and setting the password and login to 'auto', I could click the various application on the desktop, no problems.

Shutdown for Dinner
Reboot and the system boots into a solid orange screen, no icons, nothing! I found out I could right click into a mini window so I created a command line item for Firefox and successfully executed it.

My Question : What happened to the full desktop from the installation? Am I supposed to execute something from the command line to make it appear again ??

I've tried sudo /etc/init.d/gdm and sudo service gdm start and get no response.

Thanks .... Bill