I hadn't used my Ubuntu 10.04 laptop for a week or so, and when I came back to it, it had a message from the Update Manager asking to update 800+ files. So I said OK. It downloaded the packages and started the update.
Since this was taking quite a while, I went to work on my desktop, and occasionally peeked over at the laptop to see how it was doing. After awhile, the Update Manager dialog box said something about "Recovering from package failure". I clicked on the Details icon. It was processing a bunch of files, and then it just stopped. After five minutes, I gave up and restarted the system. I noticed that now there was a new version of Grub (1.98+20100804-4), and also a new kernel (2.6.32-24). But when I selected the new kernel, it said "Gave up waiting for root device" and the system immediately dropped into a command shell for initramfs.
If I select the previous kernel (2.6.32-23) in Grub, right after the Ubuntu logo comes up I get a message "There was a problem with the configuration server. /usr/lib/libcong2-4/gconf-sanity-check-2 exited with status 256".
After logging in, my desktop the System Menu doesn't appear to be complete. It is missing Preferences and Adminsitration. All there is are entries for Help and Support, About GNOME, About Ubunutu,Lock Screen, Log Out..., and Shut Down...
Any ideas on how I can recover from this mess and get back a stable system? I am an experienced programmer but still somewhat of a Ubuntu newbie.