Whatever happened, a few days troubleshooting came to naught. The odd thing is that the same SL8K x64 disc was used to install in an HP DV7T laptop and that worked out wonderfully. I ended up re-installing and using the same disc the re-install worked. The desktop box is not 'gamer qualified', meaning it is an old Intel socket 775 Core Duo with 8gb of memory and a single NVIDIA card driving two 1920-1200 LCDs. All I need beyond the stock applications are GIMP, Kate, perl-tk, ptkdb, and evince. This has been the setup for years.
What happened was that the initial installation was successful. What broke the desktop box was the pretty much mandatory update. After allowing a few hrs for the 600-something updates and reboot, the desktop box was quite borked up. Persistent kio_slave errors. No permissions for 'equo'. Even the host name was somehow changed to the generic 'localcost'. And assorted problems too long to list. How updating can break an installation seems to be a persistent problem in Linux distributions and I 'distro-hop' alot. Over the years, every distro I tried, short or long duration, from Red Hat to Mandrake to the current Linux Mint, sometimes updating the system will just break it for no apparent reasons.
Anyway, the desktop box is running fine now. A couple of minor glitches remains in that when xscreensaver is running, sometimes it would mysteriously log me off, the other annoyance is the black background in the popups for most of the icons on the task bar. They are completely black and utterly useless in giving information.