I've never used the ceramic media myself, but a grower I know who grows Cattleyas swears by it, thinks it's the greatest stuff in the world. You're right, I think the roots of the plants would etch themselves to it to the point that you couldn't get them off, but maybe that just doesn't matter if it's the only thing you use... He fertilizes every ten or so days and waters with plain water between then to flush the salts.
If you have the kind of light you talked about earlier, lots of sun where Vandas and Dendrobiums do well, most Phrags will do well for you too. Paphs in general need "bright shade": nowhere near as much light, so you may have a harder time with them if you can't tone the light down.