The sound problems and some video problems are being reporting in quantities right now, so I guessed that you are running 9.10
Unfortunately this is the first time that I am thinking negatively of a distro release, but at this point I would consider Ubuntu 9.10 the vista of ubuntu's life, the bugs should have been expected since they decided to force so many changes in a single release. But as people did with vista, roll back to the last stable version until the bugs are worked out.
I am quite surprised that the only problem I have had with Ubuntu 9.10 is that it keeps trying to force me to install grub2.
I am quite interested in your course from this point, please keep me posted as I have enjoyed trying to help with this irregular issue.