Well if you had ALL VXD or ALL WDM? then you didn't run into the GDI bug so most likely you had all VXD drivers. you see what really doomed WinME was that Win2K had come out and it was using WDM and the OEMs already had XP beta and it too was WDM and if MSFT says it can use both why not just use these WDM drivers for the new stuff and use the old VXD for the older hardware we are still selling? Most folks don't realize most boards, especially back then, were this mishmash of hardware that could be as much as 5 years old, see the whole "Vista capable" debacle that came about because Intel still had a warehouse full of shitty 9xx chipsets they were trying to move. The 9xx were IRL a DX8 GPU that Intel used software to run parts of DX9 on the CPU, which just didn't work worth a piss in the first place and which tied a boat anchor to Vista, hence "Vista capable" that only ran Vista Basic non accelerated desktops.
On your Win9X the biggest offenders for having old drivers were the "winmodems" and the sound chips, the old Sounddesign and Realtek chips were used for ages, hell I have seen boards as late as 3 years ago with AC97 sound chips on them! So this is what bit WinME in the ass, the OEMs would mix and match VXD and WDM drivers and with a 16bit GDI already being severely memory constrained? Yeah it really didn't take much, just one even slightly leaky driver could cause the house of cards to come crashing down.
As far as Linux goes like you I wanted options but after 5 years of dealing with their bullshit? there is a REASON I call 'em FOSSies, like Moonies and Scientology the amount of logic disconnect and the sheer amount of fuckery they are willing to tolerate and hoops they are willing to jump JUST to support their belief system? Its fucking nuts. I mean we'd laugh our asses off if MSFT told us we had to blow away our OS every year and a half, or that you would have to change to a different OS and reload ALL your programs AND reset and reinstall ALL your software because some jackass changed a critical subsystem and now your hardware doesn't work, right? Yet both of these are considered completely "normal" behavior, I have even read articles by Linux "experts" advising new users to have their Home on a seperate partition so that when ubuntu or Mint or whomever shits on their drivers they can "easily swap" distros until they find one that works...of course then they get to spend hours reinstalling all their software and getting everything back the way they had it, but that is part of the "fun" of Linux, right?
As for Win 9? The rumor is Nadella is sick and tired of so many refusing to upgrade from WinXP and Win 7 so the rumor is he is gonna give it either free for everybody or free for those that bought win 8 and $20-$40 a pop for WinHome for everybody else, just to get XP off the radar. Now this is just a rumor but its coming from reliable sources like Mary Jo Foley whom have been on the money in the past and it also lines up with what Nadella has been saying about making Windows less about "one big purchase a decade" and more about selling add on services like SkyDrive and Office 365. Again this is rumor but makes sense, especially if Cortana (their version of Siri) and Bing are gonna be integrated the way Google integrates their search into Android. as someone who uses Bing this is fine with me and if integrates as smoothly as Google search does with Android I really don't have a problem with it.
Finally as for Linux numbers get ready to bust a gut, as it seems that the users are growing wise to their bullshit. From a high of 1.7% after ubuntu 9 and their big ad push their current figures worldwide? Drumroll...0.97%. that is right, they aren't even 1% anymore and are just 0.01% higher than "other" which is commonly accepted to be Win2K and Win98 put together LOL! How much did they gain when Win 8 pissed everybody off? 0.00%, that is right any change was so low as not to register. Now I don't know about you but if I were to give my product away for 20 years against a competitor that sold their for $100 and couldn't even make a lousy 5%? Then I'd be taking a looong look in the mirror and asking "what am I doing wrong that the other guy is doing right" but spending 5 years in the trenches like I said to them a functional OS? Really isn't even a primary concern, its all about the politics of GPL and the belief system, for an example look at how many say "just fork it" when its pointed out systemd is a cancer spreading through the susbsystem...like Joe Average has the ability to rewrite a huge chunk of a major subsystem...yeah and I have a 14 foot dick named Leeroy Jenkins LOL.
Anyway we should know more on the 30th, that is when the tech release of Win 9 is supposed to hit, just keep an eye out on freshnews and dailyrotation for more info.