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I had successfully installed from the nVidia website. That got me nothing but an unalterable 640x480 screen. purge and autoremove didn't seem to undo it.

I attempted, via Ubuntu Software Center, to reinstall nvidia-common(295.40-0ubuntu1.1), but that doesn't get me anywhere either. unity --reset doesn't help (Compiz errs).

Is there anything, short of wipe/reinstall of 12.04, that I could try?

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Open up the additional drivers app and try to disable it. – bntser Aug 26 '12 at 19:43
Why should purge and autoremove activities from the packages manager work when you installed that driver without the package manager? @bntser No that also involves the package manager. – LiveWireBT Aug 27 '12 at 2:11

THIS semi-related "fix" resolved my stuck-in-640x480 problem: Messed up my 12.04 graphics: Falsely installed NVidia drivers on HD Graphics ("apt-get remove" intel, reboot). I'm still scanning the forum seas for a definitively helpful resolution to "Nvidia Can't Do Unity 3D" situation (which lead me to a bunch of Nvidia driver fixes that not only didn't work, but they broke my display).

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So you now installed Intel display drivers while having no Intel card? Are you trying to destroy your installation on purpose? Now would be the best time for reinstalling Ubuntu. – LiveWireBT Aug 27 '12 at 2:28

Since you installed the driver manually, you have to follow instructions on how to uninstall the driver, when installed manually.

For re-installing the proprietary driver from the repositories you probably have to remove and re-install the packages as described here.

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