An update on Laptop Hard Drives & Linux
Launchpad bug 59695 has been gathering a huge amount of activity since I wrote about this issue. The issue seems to be that the hardware manufacturers (BIOS and HDD firmware) set very aggressive values for power management. And every other OS (Windows & Mac OSX) override these values to something more sane. The manufacturers only test their equipment in Windows, so they don't see any problems :-)
This kind of thing seems to happen to Linux quite regularly - we all remember the ACPI debacle caused by manufacturers using Microsoft's broken ASL compiler, which worked in Microsoft's broken ACPI environment (or was overridden with driver updates).
So in my opinion, Ubuntu (and every other distributor) has to step in and override these aggressive settings. And, by the look of the bug report, Gnome Power Manager should provide the user with a slider to set the balance between power savings and hardware lifetime.
There is already the obligatory ubuntu is killing your Hard Drive blog, and a closed for cooling off Ubuntu forums thread, if you want get involved and start swinging your battle-axe.
Oh, and the workaround I posted last week obviously doesn't cover the case of the machine resuming from suspend. You have to use an ACPI event script for that.