Yes Matthew – take comfort in the fact you are not alone, but unfortunately I don’t have any resolution anywhere yet. I ended up buying disks and creating recovery disks that way, even though, as you, I preferred to do it with a flash drive.
Worse yet, I read that in order for flash drives to be certified for windows 8, they have to show as a fixed drive. I don’t know if this is true, but it seemed credible. That means that Sony set up a process that won’t work with any new flash drives that are being created. Rediculous as you said.
Like you, I’m not as impressed with some Vaio features as I could be. In the past, I always respected the Sony brand name, but I’m finding my Toshiba Satellite has a lot of features that just work while I constantly have to tweak things on my Vaio to get the same results. And sometimes there are no solutions. For instance, some movie disks will play on my Vaio and some will not. My Toshiba plays all of them. This is confusing since my Vaio actually has a little better specs with a 1 TB drive and the I7 chip. I assumed the rest of the machine would be equally up to date (First time I’ve ever been wrong … j/k)