I started this morning my fresh install to ubuntu 8.10 and it took about an hour to complete. My strategy for fresh installs are always to replace my HD with new one, leaving old one as a reversing backup. It's easy and cheap way to keep everything in place, in case of forgetting something in old install (who says I've done that..).
Now I have totally nicely working firefox (with KDE it has terrible problems) along everything else in in place, including vmware 2.0 server for development use. And one more thing with gnome is the support for encrypted usb memories, it's much more integrated than in KDE 4.