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I got used to Ubuntu Unity. The desktop doesn't "feel" as good as it used to and really feels so unnecesarily dumbed down.. but it's ok. Main points:
I hate dash and could never get used to it, so i just alt-f2 everything. Dash sucks, it's horrible, it presents way too much information I don't care about and too little about information i do care.
I hated the global menu, so i removed it. Why is it still there? It's just terrible, doesn't work and is cumbersome.
I do really like the vertical launcher, though. I was in pain for a while but I admit i like it better than horizontal now..
Use Xfce. Really. It is often mislabeled as an "alternative" or "lightweight" DE. Both terms are technically correct, but that misses the point that Xfce is currently the most usable and comfortable Linux desktop.
If you like the vertical panel then try to get hold of Xfce 4.10. Ubuntu still ships 4.8, 4.10 is available from Xubuntu via ppa.
Why 4.10? The vertical panel works fine in 4.8, I've been using on Squeeze since it was released.