I still get a lot of hits via searches and comments on the blog from people experiencing problems after installing the RC build of Vista SP1. I thought it would, therefore, be a good idea to re-post the position as I understand it when looking at the responses I received from the beta team at Microsoft.
No Aero, empty Control Panel etc.
These "symptoms" are all as expected if Vista drops in to reduced functionality mode which is why bugs were being closed as "By Design".
It seems that a bug was causing activation issue problems which forced Vista to drop to reduced functionality mode (even when it was fully activated in my case) and thus cause the symptoms above.
As mentioned before, it wasn't that the RC build had a bug that annoyed me but that bug reports were being closed as "By Design" without explanation. This is why I asked specific questions on my own report when I submitted my bug on the issue.
I hope that helps to clarify things for you and stop people panicking that they will have to reinstall Vista when SP1 goes RTW.
I am now going to list the common searches (according to Google Analytics) that result in hits on my blog in the hope that this post may be found more easily by those looking for answers to the problems:
vista sp1 problem control panel do not show
vista sp1 problems
vista sp1 no control panel
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vista sp1 rc install problem