Thanks to everyone for the info.
To answer newt's question; I prefer the semi-manual light-weight option if its A) easy to learn, configure, remember, and if you can quickly execute the steps each time without saying "Wait, which step comes first? What's that command option?"... and B) if using the automated full-weight option is going to take the sytem performance from 'fast' to 'moderate'/'reasonable'. With all the cheap used computers and all the distros (and versions), -who wants a reasonably-moderately 'usable' system?
Question: Is it possible to have neither HAL nor VL-Hot active, and then turn HAL on (without rebooting) ten seconds before you insert the removable media? And turn it off after removing the media? I insert media maybe once a day.
I have two realms that I'm considering these matters in. One is setting up computers for Linux-beginners. The other is me using a computer I set up with Vector. And I learn what needs to be learned to use it. On this (personal) front I'm happy that many of the system configuration tasks are automated, graphical, 'wizarded' (is that a word?), etc. For examples: Gslapt, and VASM. I found decent documentation, video tutorials, and other info sources on many Vector topics. I am able to learn most everything else. But when I start reading up on all the mounting stuff, my brain goes into kernel panic.
Suppose I use Vl-Hot. Is there a different process for mounting each type of media? I use CDs, DVDS, flash drives, and a USB digital camera. VL-Hot doesn't detect CD/DVDs. So am I going to have to learn how to manually mount the disc and then launch the appropriate program/utility depending on the content? What about for USB drives and cameras?
Now as for the second 'realm', I have been looking for a distribution that's beginner-friendly and runs fast on 700-1000MHz computers (which I have a few of). I am going to set up computers for people I know. I think Vector (Standard) might be what I am looking for, except for this media detection thing. So what I'm thinking is: HAL will be easier for these complete Linux-beginners, but will it slow down the system to the point where they'll say "This guy gave me this computer. Its kinda slow. I guess Linux is slow."
Example hardware: 800MHz PIII, 384MB RAM, 40GB hdd.
Another question is if I go with Vector Light on these machines, will HAL then be less of an issue? Also, Is Vector Light less user-friendly? I know the light versions of some other distros are harder on the eye, and less intuitive.
I know this is a lot of questions. Feel free to pick one or more and fire away. : )