yeah it sucks I tried making a signed .pkg but it didn't work, perhaps I did something wrong, but signing the eboot makes them work again only two of my games I couldn't get to work... wolf of the battlefield 3 and Super Sonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle Cars.
There are only a few cases of accidental bricks. Every bricked console after that was at the fault of the installer. You only have 4 reasons for bricking. 1. Initial testing which happens with any product. 2. Lazy people who don't take the time to read the information that is available and/or rushes to be the first 3. People who don't have the knowledge to do what their trying to do and need help. 4. Power/Hardware failure. So 90% of all bricked consoles should be bricked by stupidity alone. It's not the developers fault people are stupid. Wonder how many people installed it without even checking the check sum? I've personally been using this cfw since it came out and went to v2 last night and have had only minimal issues, so it's not the cfw; it's the user. You sound like you fit into the number 2 category.
All the new managers have peek/poke built into them now. No need to run any other apps on any cfw. All cfw have built in payloads! The only difference is which payload/combination they are using. In short, Yes! using cfw means no more dongle.
Members report upgrading from the XMB, but it's recommended from the developers themselves to do it from the recovery console; which I personally prefer and would put more weight into. Theoretically, you shouldn't have to install an ofw first since when flashing any memory there should be no trace of what used to be on there.
I went from Waninkoko 1 to 2 flashing straight on-top of the other, but since you are changing to a different cfw and there's the whole set-up and verification thing which is slightly different than a raw memory flash with no checks, I would install the ofw first then the new cfw.
Newer isn't any guarantee that it's better especially in the IT field, but in this case it should be. This is reportedly the most stable and is the only cfw to be claiming to use a Hermes payload which reigned king in the days of the Dongle. It also seems to be the safest cfw for all consoles and just not select ones with a certain NAND size. It also should have worked out any other minor bugs from other previously released cfw.
I've been using this cfw since version 1 and have had only minimal problems. Most games that don't work didn't work before so there's no big loss there. People say you don't need discs in the drive, but I always have a disc in the drive anyway. I don't see the big deal about keeping a disc in there.
I guess maybe if you have an older system and done played the crap out of it, but I've noticed minimal difference in drive usage with or without one. It's normally the laser tracking from reading back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth that goes out, not the servo that spins the disc; or the laser itself which isn't reading a game your not actually playing and should be off anyhow.
I did have 1 crash though, but I believe it was probably my fault. I was having slight external drive issues and I was running around like a mad-man in Assassin's Creed 2 in eagle-vision and the game/system froze up and rebooted but that is the only new issue I've had. Other issues have existed since before cfw even came out.