HAL and the dbusd daemons may have more basic uses such as detecting when you connect your network cable.
I have some external drives that I normally have connected. I have entries for them in the /etc/fstab file. I used the noauto and user options so that I can mount them as a normal user. The noauto allows the computer to boot up successfully even if the drive is unconnected. I also use UUID= instead of a device entry such as /dev/sda1. The device entry may be incorrect between boots. Especially if you plug in another device. The uuid number is unique to the filesystem. I obtained the info like this:
udevinfo -q env -n /dev/sdb1
You can use the filesystem label instead: "LABEL=thelabel".
Inserting the drive, I don't get an annoying popup either.
jschiwal@hpamd64:~> grep NetDisk /etc/fstab
LABEL=NetDisk /media/NetDisk xfs defaults,user,noauto 0 0
jschiwal@hpamd64:~> mount /media/NetDisk/
jschiwal@hpamd64:~> umount /media/NetDisk/
This works for fat32 thumbdrives as well. Also use the "uid","gid","fmask" & "dmask" options. Then another regular user on your machine will not be able to read your thumbdrive. ( Weak security, they could on another computer or if they have root access ).