My three sorts of (Linux) desktops
To kind of expand on a comment I made on an earlier entry, I broadly have three sorts of Linux desktops.
On machines I don't use very much and thus don't really care about I use whatever the default environment is, sometimes slightly customized if it's easy enough and I'm using the system more than once. All I really care about on these machines is getting to a terminal emulator (so that I can run ssh) and sometimes being able to run a browser. Oh, and actually connecting to the network.
On machines that I use enough to want to be productive on, I make some or many of my standard Gnome customizations (also). I still only really care about ssh and a browser, but now I want the whole process to be convenient and not too annoying.
(This assumes that these machines run Gnome as their standard environment. My EEEPc didn't, so I wound up customizing its environment instead of trying to build a Gnome environment on it. My general attitude on these machines is that it's not worth fighting the defaults, but it is worth customizing things.)
On my primary machines, the machines I sit in front of all of the time (either at work or at home), I run my full custom desktop environment. My desktop is a lot of work to set up but it's what I'm used to and it's highly tuned to work just the way I want it to. This environment has basically nothing to do with Gnome except sometimes using some Gnome applets or running some Gnome programs to do specific things.
(There's a very hard line between the second and the third sort of desktop, but the line between the first and the second is of course fuzzy.)
Since I only use Gnome on machines that I don't really use that often
or care that much about, I'm pretty indifferent to what horrors the
Gnome developers do to the Gnome environment provided that they don't
hide the terminal application or the web browser (or make them very
inconvenient to use). Gnome could make itself very irritating on the
second sort of machine by eliminating both the sshmenu applet (which
Gnome 3 sort of has) and the mini-commander (which it doesn't seem to
have yet), but this wouldn't necessarily be fatal for my ability to use
Gnome productively; I could live with starting shells and typing '
whatever' myself if I had to.
Sidebar: the other reason to be lazy about Gnome on laptops
My strong impression is that an ever-increasing amount of things that you need to work on a laptop basically require a full Gnome environment (or far too much hacking). I'm thinking of things like useful wireless networking, dynamic networking in general, and automatically suspending and unsuspending as the lid is closed and opened. Letting Gnome worry about all of this magic is certainly the easy approach to dealing with it.
It is thus not terribly surprising that my work laptop runs Gnome. My time is too limited to spend it working out how to do wireless by hand.
(Working out how to do dynamic mounting of removable media was annoying enough.)