i decided to go to the mozilla website, then dl'd 3.5 (currently i had 3.011). with 3.5 i got the plugins and dropped them into the plugins folder. perhaps java was working but flash didn't.
really linux needs standards and to be easy to install. well its free at least.
it wont let me use my native resolution but oh well.
Linux does have standards. Unfortunately, Ubuntu changes all sorts of little stuff around with every release. Java is easy to install FWIW. Did you try looking at the manual tarball install instructions on Sun's website? With the latest version of Ubuntu (9.04), it was just a matter of poking around in Add-remove.
I have an HD4870 myself and didn't have a problem with getting drivers working. ATI's instructions and GUI installer worked ok for me.
Are you still having trouble getting your native resolution? Use google to find a guide on editing your /etc/xorg/xorg.conf file.