By default Ubuntu keeps the desktop clean. I think that if your desktop isn't cluttered with icons then you're not human (and may possibly be a robot). To add the usual Trash, Computer, Network Servers and other icons to the desktop, start gconf-editor and head to the /apps/nautilus/desktop entry. Then, on the right-hand side, put a check alongside trash_icon_visible, home_icon_visible, and so on. The new desktop icons should appear immediately.
For more useful desktop organization tips, see Tip 104, on page 157, and Tip 256, on page 297.
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