"The solution, as the original poster pointed out, is relatively simple:
hdparm -B 255 /dev/sda
and the spinning-down stops. I don't know what certain other OSes do with their drives at bootup, but the current behaviour is certainly deadly for the drive. Worse: nobody will notice, since smartmontools aren't installed by default. I noticed frequent clicking sounds earlier, but I didn't think those were spindowns since I hadn't specifically set the drive into any low-power mode. I only noticed this by accident after I got smartmontools working.”
What does that command do? Let’s break it down.
hdparm: This is a linux command designed to fetch and set certain attributes of ATA/IDE hard drives.
The -B: Set Advanced Power Management feature, if the drive supports it. A low value means aggressive power management and a high value means better performance. A value of 255 will disable apm on the drive.
and /dev/sda is obviously the disk drive in question.
A relatively simple fix for a somewhat complicated problem. The only issue here is that battery life will be adversely affected, however that’s better than having a hard drive that’s dead two years after you bought it. It will be interesting to see how the Ubuntu team decides to handle this. As of yet, the trouble ticket is unassigned."