By the way, after intervening updates, it seems the problem doesn't
occur any more as originally described. Now when I try to launch

$  nautilus
Could not register the application: Error connecting: Connection refused

and if instead I try 

$dbus-launch nautilus
Initializing nautilus-dropbox 0.6.8
** (nautilus:15129): DEBUG: Syncdaemon not running, waiting for it to start in 
Initializing nautilus-gdu extension
Nautilus-Share-Message: Called "net usershare info" but it failed: 'net 
usershare' returned error 255: net usershare: cannot open usershare directory 
/var/lib/samba/usershares. Error No such file or directory
Please ask your system administrator to enable user sharing.

it comes up fine and I can view Trash etc normally. I guess I'll have to
look up what "dbus" is... It seems bad that I have to behave differently
if I'm not logged in locally, ie whatever happened to X transparency?

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  Nautilus fails to use gvfs backends when used over ssh

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