So, I think I did the most harm here. I googled similar experiences and someone mentioned that if you have the XP cd and use "deploy" you can make it like when it comes from the factory so you get 30 days to activate and I'd be able to get into standard windows to activate my copy. boots surprisingly fine into safe mode where I do exactly as the directions from the internet, after running sysprep (selected factory) it boots into XP and I'm greeted to the blue screen with the logo, just before the user login. I reset and go to last good configuration, same window; safe mode, same window but large screen resolution. put in XP CD again and boot to CD to do a repair install (not recovery console), runs fine gets through, greeted to same "activate" loop. ran something else, think from UBCD4Win to revert to older registry (from fresh install 11/16/09), back to the blue logo screen. attempt to repair install again, gets stuck at 35 minutes "installing devices" with or without network cable, computer isn't froze can hit shift+F10 and access control prompt. I ran recovery console after this and fixboot which stopped making windows try to reinstall and got me back to my logo screen (blue just before user login).
where do I go from here?
the other issue is because I installed the OS's with Ubuntu first and then XP, my MBR or GRUB were messed up and I don't get the option of booting into Ubuntu, it autoboots into XP. I tried to install GRUB from a liveCD but was worried since I was locked out of Windows I might mess up the partition and lose data.