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Thread: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

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    Voluntary Suspension Voluntary Suspension Philippus Flavius Homovallumus's Avatar
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    Default American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-32513066

    More specifically, they were grounded by a non-functional iPad App they used to check their flight plans, and weren't carrying paper backups.

    Let's reflect on the fact that a major freight and passenger hauler was relying on the Cloud and a personal computing company for navigation - and by glad no body was hurt when that went belly up.
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    Forum Lurker Member Sir Moody's Avatar
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Philipvs Vallindervs Calicvla View Post
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-32513066

    More specifically, they were grounded by a non-functional iPad App they used to check their flight plans, and weren't carrying paper backups.

    Let's reflect on the fact that a major freight and passenger hauler was relying on the Cloud and a personal computing company for navigation - and by glad no body was hurt when that went belly up.
    Not to call you a luddite but...

    This kind of thing has been going on for a while and is a MASSIVE cost saving - the kind of paper backup's companies used to rely on is a) expensive and b) Labour intensive (and in the case of Airplanes where extra weight costs more fuel also HEAVY)

    The real issue here is one of Software testing, speaking as an insider who has been migrating the company I work for into the cloud (Microsofts in our case), the cloud has led Software engineers to push updates out far quicker but with less testing simply because their customers are always connected and thus will all update at once - in this case the glitch was with a piece of software provided by boeing, I would hazard a guess that they had just pushed an update out which has "issues".

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    Member Member Greyblades's Avatar
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Well, my belief that relying on computers should never be the only option available to those operating heavy machinery has been reinforced. Tech's great, and we should use it, but until it become's fool-proof we shouldn't be completely ditching the old methods in case the new ones fail.
    Last edited by Greyblades; 04-29-2015 at 15:15.
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    Forum Lurker Member Sir Moody's Avatar
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Greyblades View Post
    Well, my belief that relying on computers should never be the only option available to those operating heavy machinery has been reinforced. Tech's great, and we should use it, but until it become's fool-proof we shouldn't be completely ditching the old methods in case the new ones fail.
    What if the Heavy Machinery they are operating are essentially a computer to begin with?

    Modern planes are essentially flying computers - hell most modern fighter planes cant even fly without the computer, if it breaks they literally fall out of the sky.

    This is also true of modern cars - mine cant start without its onboard computer.

    The simple truth is Computers are part of almost everything we do today and "clinging" to old methods with serious problems simply because they work is a really bad idea - using these old methods as a back up is still valid (and what the pilots in this case did... stupid story really)

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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    If you want to make a real story about this, then make it about outsourcing (as opposed to "offshoring").
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Moody View Post
    What if the Heavy Machinery they are operating are essentially a computer to begin with?

    Modern planes are essentially flying computers - hell most modern fighter planes cant even fly without the computer, if it breaks they literally fall out of the sky.

    This is also true of modern cars - mine cant start without its onboard computer.

    The simple truth is Computers are part of almost everything we do today and "clinging" to old methods with serious problems simply because they work is a really bad idea - using these old methods as a back up is still valid (and what the pilots in this case did... stupid story really)
    I retract my doubt of tech but I retain that there should have been a backup.

    I'm a big believer in backups and safetys and these guys were caught out without one. The least they could have done is had a backup ipad, or better yet had the documents on a cheap e-reader or something.
    Last edited by Greyblades; 04-29-2015 at 16:04.
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    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    I'm not sure whether I would use cloud-reliant apps on an airplane, make them work offline and give them a spare in case the first one has a failure and most scenarios should be unproblematic.


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    Forum Lurker Member Sir Moody's Avatar
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Greyblades View Post
    I retract my doubt of tech but I retain that there should have been a backup.

    I'm a big believer in backups and safetys and these guys were caught out without one. The least they could have done is had a backup ipad, or better yet had the documents on a cheap e-reader or something.
    I disagree - Id say the story shows they had a very rigorous safety system in place - the pilots all checked their systems before takeoff and upon finding a fault canceled the take off until paper copies could be produced (the fault in question was with software not the actual Ipad so any backup Ipads would have had the same fault)

    We should be praising American Airlines for having such a well thought out and executed system instead of chiding them for reliance on technology.

    The really interesting question should be to Boeing about why they pushed out a glitchy patch to a safety critical piece of software

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    Forum Lurker Member Sir Moody's Avatar
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Husar View Post
    I'm not sure whether I would use cloud-reliant apps on an airplane, make them work offline and give them a spare in case the first one has a failure and most scenarios should be unproblematic.
    The software in question is not cloud reliant - it is designed to work offline (according to Boeing's website) - it seems to work by downloading the maps while the plane is at the gate and connected and then running offline while the plane is in the air - id hazard a guess that the problem was in a failure to download the maps (since the article mentions the pilots having to return to the gate to fix the issue)

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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Moody View Post
    Not to call you a luddite but...

    This kind of thing has been going on for a while and is a MASSIVE cost saving - the kind of paper backup's companies used to rely on is a) expensive and b) Labour intensive (and in the case of Airplanes where extra weight costs more fuel also HEAVY)

    The real issue here is one of Software testing, speaking as an insider who has been migrating the company I work for into the cloud (Microsofts in our case), the cloud has led Software engineers to push updates out far quicker but with less testing simply because their customers are always connected and thus will all update at once - in this case the glitch was with a piece of software provided by boeing, I would hazard a guess that they had just pushed an update out which has "issues".
    You completely missed the point.

    The flight plans should be on the plane's own internal computer, which should be receiving encrypted data from American Airlines' own servers this would, among other things, prevent the update issue you mentioned. The Cloud is all well and good if you're sending people weather reports or news but Civilian Airlines should have the same sort of fully internal systems as the military does, you shouldn't be using a third party like Apple to actually run the system.
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    Forum Lurker Member Sir Moody's Avatar
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Philipvs Vallindervs Calicvla View Post
    You completely missed the point.

    The flight plans should be on the plane's own internal computer, which should be receiving encrypted data from American Airlines' own servers this would, among other things, prevent the update issue you mentioned. The Cloud is all well and good if you're sending people weather reports or news but Civilian Airlines should have the same sort of fully internal systems as the military does, you shouldn't be using a third party like Apple to actually run the system.
    Hmmm that is a interesting point but really its just a shift of whose cloud you use - your own (in which case you are responsible for maintaining a large array of very expensive computers and a complicated network) or a third party who has dedicated a large amount of resources to maintaining an immense number of very expensive computers and is letting you rent a part of that at a fraction of the cost.

    again from experience the Third party option wins out in every way - primarily due to scaling.

    If you are maintaining your own cloud in order to add extra resources you need to add more computers - if you are using a third party you simply rent more resources.

    If you no longer need the extra resources you are stuck with expensive computers if you are hosting and will need to go through the costly process of removing and recycling them. If you are renting you simply reduce your allocated resources...

    I am not saying using third parties is flawless but generally its far more cost effective and reliable (Hosting companies will spend a lot to make sure their cloud doesn't go down- and if it does they are liable not their clients)

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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    The flight plans should be on the plane's own internal computer, which should be receiving encrypted data from American Airlines' own servers this would, among other things, prevent the update issue you mentioned. The Cloud is all well and good if you're sending people weather reports or news but Civilian Airlines should have the same sort of fully internal systems as the military does, you shouldn't be using a third party like Apple to actually run the system.
    You'd be surprised just how much third-party software and hardware the militaries of the world use.
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Sir Moody SCHOOLED ya'll...

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    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Moody View Post
    The software in question is not cloud reliant - it is designed to work offline (according to Boeing's website) - it seems to work by downloading the maps while the plane is at the gate and connected and then running offline while the plane is in the air - id hazard a guess that the problem was in a failure to download the maps (since the article mentions the pilots having to return to the gate to fix the issue)
    Well, I made a somewhat generic statement since some people mentioned that but the article doesn't indeed. It just says the app was failing due to duplicate data and they had to re-download it at the gate once the error was fixed.

    This will be a non-issue once the planes are drones and fly without pilots.


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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Husar View Post
    Well, I made a somewhat generic statement since some people mentioned that but the article doesn't indeed. It just says the app was failing due to duplicate data and they had to re-download it at the gate once the error was fixed.

    This will be a non-issue once the planes are drones and fly without pilots.
    Oh you DIDN'T go there...

    You know, recently it's only been Germans and Arabs who willfully crash planes killing hundreds or thousands of people... Does that mean that we can be safe with humans as long as they are not Arabs or Germans?

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    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Kadagar_AV View Post
    Oh you DIDN'T go there...

    You know, recently it's only been Germans and Arabs who willfully crash planes killing hundreds or thousands of people... Does that mean that we can be safe with humans as long as they are not Arabs or Germans?
    Well, you should be able to answer that for yourself with a little bit of statistics knowledge.
    Sooner or later machines will replace us in all our jobs, including the government and then we will be truly free and safe.


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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    The Computer is your Friend





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    Friend Computer wants Alpha Complex to be happy
    Happiness Is Mandatory
    Failure to be happy is treason
    Treason is punishable by summary execution
    Have a nice daycycle!
    Last edited by Greyblades; 04-30-2015 at 11:26.
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Husar View Post
    This will be a non-issue once the planes are drones and fly without pilots.
    Its inevitable really - the planes already fly themselves with Human oversight so its only a small step to remove the pilot entirely...

    I suspect they wont go all in however and the first move will be to remove the Pilot from the plane and have them instead connected like the current Reaper drone pilots (ie sitting in a secure facility in a centralised location), they still get the benefit of "trust" then - as this thread shows some people just wouldn't trust a machine without any Human oversight...

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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Moody View Post
    Hmmm that is a interesting point but really its just a shift of whose cloud you use - your own (in which case you are responsible for maintaining a large array of very expensive computers and a complicated network) or a third party who has dedicated a large amount of resources to maintaining an immense number of very expensive computers and is letting you rent a part of that at a fraction of the cost.

    again from experience the Third party option wins out in every way - primarily due to scaling.

    If you are maintaining your own cloud in order to add extra resources you need to add more computers - if you are using a third party you simply rent more resources.

    If you no longer need the extra resources you are stuck with expensive computers if you are hosting and will need to go through the costly process of removing and recycling them. If you are renting you simply reduce your allocated resources...

    I am not saying using third parties is flawless but generally its far more cost effective and reliable (Hosting companies will spend a lot to make sure their cloud doesn't go down- and if it does they are liable not their clients)
    Yes, I'm aware of the problem - reading over your post I see that the main plank of your argument is cost. Now, cost is certainly important, even for the military, but the reality is that reliability is much more important for something life this, and the ongoing cost of renting the service is usually more than the cost of running it yourself, certainly for something like a large airline. Reliability is also not great - going back to the military thing - I once stood guard in a guardroom with a broken armoury alarm. That meant that it was impossible to know if someone was braking into the armoury, it was an old camp without CCTV. Why was it broken? Because the German-based company the British Army was renting their own camp from hadn't fixed it.
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    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Philipvs Vallindervs Calicvla View Post
    Why was it broken? Because the German-based company the British Army was renting their own camp from hadn't fixed it.
    You really can't trust those Germans, it's becoming increasingly obvious.


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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Husar View Post
    You really can't trust those Germans, it's becoming increasingly obvious.
    Indeed. The only thing germans hate more than themselves is everyone else.

    Joke... kinda, you guys need to stop hating yourselves. The only thing worse than too much national pride is too little, god knows it doesn't end well when the only people who won't tell you you are awful for being even slightly nationalistic are the nazis.
    Last edited by Greyblades; 04-30-2015 at 12:43.
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    Forum Lurker Member Sir Moody's Avatar
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Philipvs Vallindervs Calicvla View Post
    Yes, I'm aware of the problem - reading over your post I see that the main plank of your argument is cost. Now, cost is certainly important, even for the military, but the reality is that reliability is much more important for something life this, and the ongoing cost of renting the service is usually more than the cost of running it yourself, certainly for something like a large airline. Reliability is also not great - going back to the military thing - I once stood guard in a guardroom with a broken armoury alarm. That meant that it was impossible to know if someone was braking into the armoury, it was an old camp without CCTV. Why was it broken? Because the German-based company the British Army was renting their own camp from hadn't fixed it.
    You really underestimate how much Clouds cost to build and operate - these are MASSIVE arrays of very powerful computers which require constant cooling.

    Think about it this way for second - you run a Business which requires a large amount of computing power 5 days a week - if you buy your own machines 2 days a week you will be paying upkeep on machines you are not using. If you Rent you pay for what you use.

    On reliability - if you buy the machines you have to maintain the hardware, the area that houses the hardware, the network that the machines are connected into and all software installed.
    If you are renting you have a company that is reliant on the cloud working to make its money at your beck and call to make sure everything is Ok... all you need to do is make sure your internal network can contact the external cloud.

    so on the Rent side of things it is both A) far cheaper and B) far more reliable.

    The only benefit you can gain from controlling your own cloud is the security of knowing all data is handled in house - you would be surprised by the number of business that don't care about that... especially when you consider how difficult and expensive it is to maintain a secure network as Sony as found out...

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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Expense is one aspect, I would think liability is also a factor.
    If the cloud goes down or is breached, who is liable for the cost?
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    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Moody View Post
    You really underestimate how much Clouds cost to build and operate - these are MASSIVE arrays of very powerful computers which require constant cooling.

    Think about it this way for second - you run a Business which requires a large amount of computing power 5 days a week - if you buy your own machines 2 days a week you will be paying upkeep on machines you are not using. If you Rent you pay for what you use.

    On reliability - if you buy the machines you have to maintain the hardware, the area that houses the hardware, the network that the machines are connected into and all software installed.
    If you are renting you have a company that is reliant on the cloud working to make its money at your beck and call to make sure everything is Ok... all you need to do is make sure your internal network can contact the external cloud.

    so on the Rent side of things it is both A) far cheaper and B) far more reliable.

    The only benefit you can gain from controlling your own cloud is the security of knowing all data is handled in house - you would be surprised by the number of business that don't care about that... especially when you consider how difficult and expensive it is to maintain a secure network as Sony as found out...
    Another point where most Germans and most businesses break the law.
    If the government interpretes the privacy laws strictly, then every german person/company using cloud services to put important data there would have to go to the cloud provider personally and check the data security measures to see whether they are compliant with our data security laws. You can probably imagine how many people or even companies here do that and how many actually put data into the cloud.
    Our government has been kind so far and decided not to jail us all.

    If you think that's funny consider that clothing companies which should check their suppliers for the use of child labor also hardly do so, John Oliver just had that topic. The EU/US is an unregulated banana republic really, no wonder there are failing iPads on airlines.

    This will all change when merciless machines enforce the laws.
    Last edited by Husar; 04-30-2015 at 14:02.


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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Moody View Post
    You really underestimate how much Clouds cost to build and operate - these are MASSIVE arrays of very powerful computers which require constant cooling.
    No, I understand the rationale, and it makes sense for a services company.

    Think about it this way for second - you run a Business which requires a large amount of computing power 5 days a week - if you buy your own machines 2 days a week you will be paying upkeep on machines you are not using. If you Rent you pay for what you use.
    Not relevant in this case as airlines operate 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

    On reliability - if you buy the machines you have to maintain the hardware, the area that houses the hardware, the network that the machines are connected into and all software installed.
    If you are renting you have a company that is reliant on the cloud working to make its money at your beck and call to make sure everything is Ok... all you need to do is make sure your internal network can contact the external cloud.

    so on the Rent side of things it is both A) far cheaper and B) far more reliable.

    The only benefit you can gain from controlling your own cloud is the security of knowing all data is handled in house - you would be surprised by the number of business that don't care about that... especially when you consider how difficult and expensive it is to maintain a secure network as Sony as found out...
    If you do a little digging you'll see Sony uses third parties to provide it's customer support, and those third parties necessarily have access to the Network. As to mechanical reliability, there's nobody more obsessive about that than aircraft engineers so it's unlikely that would be lower in-house unless American Airlines fails to understand that their network is actually a part of their mechanical fleet, and not their customer service... which they probably don't.

    Bottom line - unless you do it yourself you don't know what the quality is really like.
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Philipvs Vallindervs Calicvla View Post
    Bottom line - unless you do it yourself you don't know what the quality is really like.
    You could help that a bit by demanding for example a certain level of ITIL fulfillment or some certifications where your provider was independently tested for service quality. And then you have service level agreements and so on. It's not always just a matter of your company having to trust the other company.

    Or the CEO of the other company could be your golf buddy/cousin and you just know they can be trusted.


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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Philipvs Vallindervs Calicvla View Post
    Not relevant in this case as airlines operate 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
    You still don't seem to be grasping what I am saying so lets put this in context of an airline.

    In order to operate their cloud they would need enough resources to operate at their peak times. Lets for argument sake say they have 1000 planes operating at peak times- they therefore have to make sure any hardware they buy can operate at peak efficiency.

    They do not always run at peak however - most of the day they will be flying less planes lets say at their quietest they operate 200 planes. This means they are paying for the resources to operate 1000 planes when in fact only 200 are running.

    Lets say they expand their business and their peak times now operate at 1200 planes - they now need to procure new machines since their current architecture cannot support the new peak. This means going out buying new machines.

    Even with the growth at peak time the number of planes at their lowest remains at 200 - so now they are paying for considerable more resources at down times than they need.

    THIS is scalability and is the key reason third party clouds are so attractive - when you are operating at peak the Cloud can distribute more resources to you - they will be far far bigger than you need and can shift resources with ease since they already have them - when you are at your lowest you are not paying for resources you are not using and so are saving a tonne of money.

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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    I want to know whether what you say is relevant here, though.

    You speak of clouds very generally, but here's the issue: in the specific case of flight plans, would "vertically-integrating" their electronic management actually cost them anything?

    As an example: electronic mail. Creating or licensing an in-house e-mail client, and storing the emails locally or otherwise on company servers, needs an investment of basically $0. This is not a function that it makes any sense to outsource.

    Generalizations aside, why wouldn't flight plans be like emails here? I bet you could store a flight plan on a floppy disk. Am I wrong?
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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    Am I wrong?
    Not necessarily, it depends, do they download just the flight plan or a map? If it's e.g. a map with an up-to-date weather forecast then it may not be feasible to run the cloud on your own as you would have to get the maps from the provider anyway unless you also want to run an in-house weather service.


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    Default Re: American Airlines Grounded by iPads

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    Am I wrong?
    Yes.

    Don't get me wrong though... You are absolutely GREAT with advanced words, most of the time you even spell and use them right (social situation aside, of course).

    But yes, you are wrong...

    However, I must give you kudos for having the guts to challenge Sir Moody though... I have no idea what Sir Moody brings to the table, but I am sure as hell that it beats a linguistic (who still speak like what, one language? And even that in a flawed way) when it comes to knowledge in and around these questions.


    I would answer you myself, but it's just that Sir Moody, has so far not only held my points, but excelled them... So I will happily leave it for him, and eat popcorn on the sideline as I watch on :D
    Last edited by Kadagar_AV; 05-01-2015 at 03:26.

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