"If nothing else, the sound is usually muted at boot, and you can no longer sanely get to a mixer to fix that. "
Eh? What? There's one on the panel like always. If you right-click it, there's a 'mute' checkbox. Hard to think how that could get much easier. gnome-volume-control is right there in the menus like it's always been. Sure, it's a rather different app since F11, but it still has a mute button. Not quite sure what you're talking about.
But yeah, audio is often muted at boot. I filed a bug for my case and Lennart looked into it a bit, then it seemed to magically stop happening while we were debugging it, but it happens again with F12 final live images. Oh well. It's not hard to unmute it, once.