FYI Avant Window Navigator works well in Gnome Shell...
What you could do is use the Ubuntu Customization Kit (UCK) to create your preferred distribution. I've practiced this method for the past year.
Just some pointers.
* Copy your /var/cache/apt directory to the same path in the directory it creates in your home directory for a quicker experience. ie. sudo cp -v -R /var/cache/apt ./thedirectory/
* Use your native language only and discard the rest.
* Include LXDE and the suite it uses among gnome.
* Include Lilo just in case
My ubuntu customization kit (which I use, but with KDE) is the apt-get install kubuntu-desktop.
(And btw, I kept all GTK applications and use the ones I feel are better that KDEs)
And now I want to show an explanation why we need to ditch Gnome:
1. We don't use windows, despite the fact that is quite stable and usable, because we want to have more control over out PC and open source makes that easier.
Its is possible to customize windows as well if you are determined enough (you can find/write alternative file managers, alternative desktops, like http://www.sharpenviro.com . You can even run most Linux apps on windows.
Even though its closed source, if you want it badly enough, you can reverse engeener the importaint part and replace other. Sure open-source makes that much easier.
1. We don't use Gnome, despite the fact that is quite stable and usable, because we want to have more control over out PC and plenty of desktop settings makes that easier.
Its is possible to customize Gnome/Ubuntu as well if you are determined enough (you can find/write alternative file managers, alternative panels, like Avant,
Even though Gnome lacks the settings, if you want it badly enough, using its source and hidden settings you can customze it, but sure its easier to do in KDE.
Some of this thread reads like a new car ad.
"I was happy with my old Pontiac Grand Prix but sense the company no longer exist I'll need to trade up for a Ford Focus."
Compiz (at least 0.8 - 0.9 has some bugs) really doesn't have any visual bugs, and preformance issues. Heck on my nvidia 8400M GS using nouveau, it gives me around 100FPS on default pref level, and absolutely no slow downs. In fact, while using compiz system feels faster because compiz uses 3D engine more that X that relies mostly on remains of 2D engine.
I also have i965 system, and compiz is running superb there.
(In very distinct past - like pre modesettings days, compiz did work bad there, but today its fast and glitch free).
And I also have i945 system (a netbook) - compiz works superb there as well.
So its really graphic drivers and different parts that are touched by compiz and mutter.
Heck, on nouveau kwin is dead slow, so sure it sucks, except that it doesn't, it just triggers some less optimized path or something like that.
On my ati card specifically I have this awful issue with newer versions of compiz where if I enable smooth scrolling in any program its horribly laggy, I didn't have this issue in the older version of compiz in LMDE though, and didn't have it with mutter.
I may have been exaggerating when it comes to how much "lag" there is, theres really not that much, its perfectly usable, but I have high expectations of how smooth the composited desktop should be. I've never had these types of problems with aero or windows for example. I've never seen an animation lag or anything with that, and compiz never really reached that standard for me.