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According to this article posted yesterday on CNET, Apple has applied for a patent on technology which would allow an iPod (or other device) to detect when it is falling and shut down the hard drive, minimizing the potential damage to drive and data due to impact. How soon this technology will find its way into the iPod, assuming it ever does, is unknown. Considering that IBM has deployed similar technology in its ThinkPads, I wouldn't be surprised if it appears within the next generation or two.

Apple aims to patent fall-detecting iPod [CNET via MacMerc]