Well... This is such a complicated issue, I hardly know where to begin. Let me tell you what some of the problems and trade offs are in no particular order.
1) The file system. The journaled file system, which ext3 is, must be synced on a regular basis to reduce the likely hood of loosing data. In order for a sync to take place the drive must be spinning at operating speed. The more often a sync takes place the better your data integrity. I read somewhere that Ubuntu did a sync every 5 sec., but I am sure that must not be in power save or battery/notebook mode. At any rate, the sync timing can be adjusted from the command line. From what I have read, a number of people seem to think that you can lengthen that time out to as much as 60 sec. with ext3 without getting into trouble, but I would think that would depend on how much ram you had and the applications you were running.
2) There is another completely different setting that adjust the spin up time. So that once the drive spins up it will run for a minimum amount of time.
These are the two adjustments that you have available to control the disk cycling and run time.
Ok, lets look at disk drives. Usually the most critical rating is the number of spin up cycles the drive can reasonably tolerate before failure. the next most important is the continuous number of hours of operation one can reasonably expect.
A hard disk is a mechanical device. For the sake of this discussion the parts we are most concerned about are the motor, the bearings, and the read/write head or heads.
The hardest load on the motor is starting it and bringing it up to speed, or spin up. The hardest load on the heads is the spin down or parking the heads when the unit cycles off. The hardest load on the bearings is continuous run which generates heat in the bearings and causes them to wear faster. As well as make the entire unit run hotter, which isn't good for the magnetic media either.
Thinking about all of these factors you begin to see that you can't win for loosing, so to speak. What is a distro maker to do? Power the drive down for longer periods of time and take a bigger risk of loosing data, or risking a system freeze on low RAM machines, and save lots of battery power, and have a cool running hard drive? Or should s/he on the the other hand, run the drive almost constantly and risk early failure of the bearings and media due to heat build up as well as reduce battery life considerably?
If you run somewhere in the middle you can kind of balance all the competing factors to get the best hard drive life at a reasonable battery drain and still have a responsive machine.
As you can see this is a very subjective decision. Each distro developer must weigh the pros and cons and pick what they think is the best compromise.
Every OS has exactly the same problems to solve. Some do a better job of making educated guesses than others, there is no doubt about that.
Is the problem fixed in the current version? Will it be fixed in the next version? Difficult question to answer. First, is there a problem? Well there will always be a problem for some machines and some application loads, at any given set of settings. If you change the settings then it will fix some peoples problems and create problems for others.
So you tell me if the problems will be fixed. I would say if they change the timings, yes, some people will be happy, others will not. Could Ubuntu do a better job with the default settings to have a lesser number of people having problems? I suspect so, but I don't know that. After all Ubuntu users are probably the most diverse group of users in Linux.
Windows has drive problems too, the exact same problems. The difference being that drive mfg.'s build and tailor their hardware to run as good as possible on Windows. So they probable have the edge here. But make no mistake, Windows notebooks go through drives right and left too.
I know I didn't really answer your question but maybe you understand now why the question is so hard to answer honestly without a lot of spin, pro or con.
Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and each time expecting a different result.
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