I did try a lot of software last summer: exposure fusion withenfuse/tufuse/photomatix as well as sns and oloneo. I think exposure fusion is the way to go, faster than hdr, no halos, you can go with 3 bracket shots or less. Sns and Oloneo can produce good results "sometimes", but they can light up part of the image that are not suposed to be that light; I mean, they are unpredictable sometimes, and you need to tweak them very much to have an acceptable result. A very important feature of this kind of processing is deghosting, specially if you are shooting landscape.
I think that the problem of dynamic range is inherently the medium. We are trying to put a high dynamic range scene in a low dynamic range medium (either paper or screen). It reminds me of the 80's videogames with 16 or 256 colors, they were trying to put a caribbean sunset as a background but, hey, it was 16 colours, how could it look even close? The solution of dynamic range problems will be of course hdr capture/output devices. That's why I agree with the opinion that the first photo looks more natural. This courtain should be bright, it cannot be a medium gray. If a film were used, would there be detail in the curtains? maybe, but if there was detail, this detail would be very compressed towards the whites, while with digital is linearly distributed, so the values go towards the midtones. We can not forget that our vision is not linear.