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I looked around the web and did not find anything on disabling automount on Mint, not that I looked very hard, since Google is available to all.
Some more information would likely be useful, such as what version of Mint, what is the output of fdisk -l from a terminal (may need to be run as root), and what are the permissions on the partitions? Does this happen with every external storage device you connect, or just with one?
The automount process creates a directory for the user under /media:
drwxr-x---+ 3 root root 4096 Dec 5 20:34 jim
As jim I cannot even look in it.
If there is an entry if /etc/fstab it is used, but otherwise the device is put under /media and is not visible.
I guess the solution is to have an entry for every possible partition with noauto set. Rather messy.
Just for fun, I connected my Podplayer (Iriver 150) to my Mint 13 system. It automounted just fine and allowed me to manipulate the files on it, including copying and deleting a file. The directory structure looked just the same as on my other systems.
I am not sure the behavior you've experienced is necessarily typical of Mint. There may be something else going on. I have no idea what it may be, though.
Things change from one release to the next and are not always known or intended.
This is the first distro that creates a subdirectory under /media for the user. In the past, the new devices all got lumped together in /media unless /etc/fstab has a relevant entry.