Miso scores $10 million to bring its hamburger-flipping robot to more restaurants

One of many companies working to automate the restaurant business and reduce labor and benefits costs:

Pasadena-based hardware startup Miso Robotics just got a big vote of confidence from investors, in the form of a $10 million Series B. This latest windfall led by Acacia Research Corporation brings…

Source: Miso scores $10 million to bring its hamburger-flipping robot to more restaurants | TechCrunch


AVOID MAIL.COM URL: Unreliable, unacceptable cloud-based email service

What is “Mail.com”

Last fall, I switched my email accounts to an email service hosted at the url mail.com which provides “free email” at your choice of up to about 200 possible domains that they have registered.

The email service is free, paid for by sponsored advertising. The ads take the form of simulated mail messages in your inbox (since they are not real email messages, you cannot mark them as spam). They also take the form of full screen ads when you first access your email via the web – typically its a full screen ad trying to convert you to a paid premium email account. Similarly, on the Android app, sometimes when selecting a mail message to read, you will see a full screen ad before you can access your email message. As before, these ads are often from the mail service itself trying to convert you to a paying customer. If you pay a subscription fee, the ads allegedly go away.


Our Experience

When I tried to login one day in February 2018, I received this message saying access to my account was “blocked” due to “irregular activity”:

I contacted Customer Service using their online form (the only way to reach them) and received this 24 hours later (to my alternate email address):

The service, arbitrarily, without any explanation, shut off access to my email and calendar for reasons having nothing to do with me. In fact, this shut down occurred overnight while I was a sleep. Clearly, this is not something I caused. Yet they refuse to provide any explanation.

I contacted them a third time to ask for an explanation and they sent a form response saying a “ticket” had already been opened on this issue and dealt with (see above) and, basically, further requests to them will be ignored. They actually say that “Customer Support is our main priority” which empirically is not true.

The Aftermath

I looked online for reviews of “Mail.com” and I learned two things:

1. There are many fake review web sites with titles similar to “Top Ten Best …” where every product or service is wonderful.

2. There are also many user community web sites that had many negative comments about “Mail.com”. My experience is apparently not unusual with Mail.com.

Some of the comments voiced a suspicion that Mail.com blocks accounts after several months if you have failed to convert to a paid subscription account. Since Mail.com is unreachable, it is impossible to discuss this allegation with anyone at Mail.com.

Better Business Bureau

The parent company of Mail.com is 1 & 1 Mail & Media Inc. The company, in various places, is shown with an address in Pennsylvania but may be based in Germany.  It appears to be connected to 1&1 Internet, Inc as some of their IP addresses map back to 1&1 Internet.

According to the Better Business Bureau report for the Washington, DC area only, they have received 30 complaints, 1 negative review and 1 positive report. BBB assigns them an A+ (based on separate experience I have documented with BBB, BBB ratings are meaningless). The negative complaints generally involve having their credit card billed for services the user says they did not authorize and the great difficulty that paying customers have in deleting their account and getting Mail.com to stop billing them.

The company tries to have you to install various add-on software components to your Internet browser, ostensibly to give you instant notice of new mail. However, many reviewers say you should not install these components and if you do, should remove them. 82% of IE users uninstall the component within one week of installing the add on. Many “free” browser extensions are actually used to spy on your online behavior, to track your online web access, and to create marketing dossiers about your possible interests. This data is then sold to organizations wishing to target people like you, to sell you products or services. We do not know if the “free” Mail.com browser add ons perform this feature (as noted, Mail.com is unreachable and makes it impossible to ask them questions).

When You Lose Access to your Data

When you lose access to your email account abruptly and without warning, you need to immediately update your email contact information with all accounts you have elsewhere, plus you need to alert all of your email contacts that you have lost your email service.

Worse, however, is that we typically save various messages – often important ones – in online folders for future reference. For example, emailed receipts or invoices.

When your account is cut off, you lose access to potentially substantial amounts of critical information. Effectively, Mail.com is stealing your personal data – and their terms of service even spell out that they can do this.

Furthermore, Mail.com does not tell you anything about the “irregular activity”. You have no way of knowing if the security breach is potentially worse – has your personal information in your account or folders been accessed? This is a critical security problem. What happens to the data in your account after they block it? Is the information securely erased?

  • MAIL.COM’s account death sentence, without any explanation, is 100% unacceptable from any provider and renders their email services 100% unreliable.
  • By not providing an explanation, we do not know if there are other legitimate security issues that we need to address.
  • By blocking access, without warning, and providing no recourse, Mail.com effectively steals your intellectual property (again, which they assert a right to do in their terms and service agreement).
  • Other online reviews indicate our experience is not unusual with Mail.com.

Empirically, Mail.com is 100% Unreliable. Based on our actual experience outlined above, we strongly recommend avoidance of MAIL.COM

Their customer service is awful – there is no way to contact them except through a single online form with a 24 hour turn around (others report turn around time up to days to weeks).

They claim to have excellent customer support. When they offer no assistance on issues as critical as loss of all your email and provide no information about their actions, their customer support claims are empirically false.

Unfortunately, there is no way to contact the company. They refuse to acknowledge any further contact through their online customer support feature. It is impossible to ask them for their perspective on the items outlined above.

Lessons learned


After this, I am transferring important items like emailed receipts, documents and other data to offline storage and/or printing them on paper.

Switched to Outlook.com

I have switched to reputable nline mail services offered by Microsoft and also to my own email server that I control. Using the Outlook email application, mail that was been stored in cloud email folders is also configured to be stored as a local copy on my own computer. This is a fantastically better solution than cloud-based only systems like Mail.com.



Update: Many people have had problems with them in the past, exactly like others are also reporting this week. There are many reports on Twitter this week of others losing access to their email too. A online comment at an online forum looked up their server IP address and found that their servers are blacklisted by anti-spam systems. This suggests defects are causing their systems to be either hacked or abused for the purpose of sending spam – indicating they have little idea how to manage an email system.

CONFIRMED: As of Feb 16, 2018 at least one of their IP addresses is blacklisted on anti-spam lists. I confirmed that the IP address belongs to 1&1 and it is presently blacklisted.The second 1&1 IP address I checked later is also blacklisted.

Their terms of service say they can and will terminate your account and delete your private data, for any reason what so ever, whenever they feel like, without warning.

There are rumors online that

1) mail.com’s servers were hacked (this has reportedly happened before)

2) mail.com had a pre-announced system upgrade about 24-48 hours prior to the loss of accounts. The rumor is the upgrade failed.

3) As a consequence of either (1) or (2), mail.com is said to have possibly lost all user data connected to the accounts,

4) Or, that mail.com routinely blocks access to free accounts if the user does not convert the free account to a paid premium account within a few months.

I have attempted to contact mail.com through their online customer support tiny-form and via Twitter and they have not responded to anyone. It appears that you cannot get telephone support unless you upgrade to a paid premium account. Does that mean blocking accounts and then having to convert to a paid account to contact support to restore service is a protection racket? We have no way of knowing as Mail.com does not respond to customer inquiries.

Avoid all use of 1&1 and mail.com products and services. Run away fast.

Update 2/27/2018

Two weeks later they sent this insulting email. I have a B.S. in computer science, an M.S. in software engineering and have taken additional graduate course work in information security. You’d think I might know a few things… they still have refused to provide any information as to what their security systems detected. My mail.com account remains blocked. I have moved everything to a Microsoft hosted email system which has been secure, solid and reliable.

Update February 28th, 2018:


And … the account remains blocked in spite of what their tech support said.

Update March 5, 2018

And at last, 3 weeks later, I can now log in again to my mail.com email address. I have already switched over 149 accounts, groups, vendors, etc, to my new email address, plus am now forwarding all of my stored mail, from mail.com to my new email address at a new service provider.

My account at mail.com had been set up as my primary email address for handling all email correspondence. Being abruptly cut off for 3 weeks, with no explanation, and initially, with a statement from the vendor that  I was cut off permanently, is insane.

Autonomous self driving cars’ sensor arrays may be used for intensive public surveillance

Autonomous self-driving cars are continuously surveying their surroundings using an array of sensors and recording this to memory.

In the event of an accident of malfunction, this data can be retrieved for analysis.

However, this data could also be retrieved as surveillance data – even when the vehicle itself has not been in an crash.

Consider, a bike versus human driven car crash at an intersection. Two other vehicles at the intersection are autonomous vehicles and they have recorded the entire scenario, in detail, including subject and object positions and travel speeds.

All of this data is available to the police. Police agencies that today operate their own license plate readers and intersection surveillance cameras might choose to contract with autonomous vehicle companies for use as public data collection systems. When your autonomous vehicle is connected to your EV charging station, it might communicate over WiFi to upload collected data to a master database.

This is not particularly difficult or far fetched and police may already have the legal authority to pursue this collection.

Source: Why cops won’t need a warrant to pull the data off your autonomous car | Ars Technica

Data mining is a questionable activity when databases are filled with crap

I need to replace an old toilet and had to order one at Lowe’s. It seems they only stock the “tall” version of toilets now days, rather than old fashioned regular height toilets.

We go to a Point of Sale system where a staff member logs in to place the order. It looks like its running a VT100 emulator – like 1970s or 1980s technology. It’s apparently old Unix but looks like DOS, if you get the picture (yeah, its ancient technology).

They enter my phone number to look me up in their database – and it returns someone with my name in a city and state I have never been in.

We are told how wonderful information systems are to improving efficiencies and effectiveness in organizations, and in presenting new marketing opportunities.

But bad data and bad data mining occur everywhere and render such ideas moot.

Last week, we received a sample products package for Mom’s who’ve recently given birth, for a family member who has never lived in this house and who is not pregnant nor recently given birth, and which was addressed to her pre-married name. A bit of looking online finds others have received these sample products.  One recipient called the company and found they buy customer lists from many stores like Toys R Us, and what not, and run data mining software to discern facts about people. And then promptly mail them a sample products package as part of their marketing efforts. Garbage in –> Garbage out.

Meanwhile, my GMail account became so overwhelmed with email for other people that I had to trash it. Except I can’t – the apps I have on my phone are under my email address. I have, however, moved all of my email correspondence to a different email provider. However, my GMail account receives billing statements for other people with the same name who likely entered an incorrect email address for our similar names.

We know that GMail runs artificial intelligence analysis on our email to build up a marketing profile. It is not scanning for keywords – it is literally the equivalent of someone reading all of your email and taking notes (another reason to leave GMail). GMail is taking notes on other people’s correspondence but attributing those emails to me. Google is building a dossier on me, for marketing purposes, based upon analyzing emails that have nothing to do with me – in other words, Google’s dossier on me is full of crap.

Most of the email I receive on that account is to other people who entered the wrong email address. Consequently, I receive monthly billing statements from businesses I’ve never done business with, in cities and state’s I have never lived in. I receive reminders to take my BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Volkswagen vehicles in for maintenance (I own none of those). I also receive notices of bills not paid (apparently I am a dead beat BMW owner except none of these are mine). I receive all kinds of emails for products and services I have never used, from vendors I do not know. The email account is completely wrecked. Yet Google continues to analyze email in that account without recognizing its all garbage.

One time when we pulled a credit report on ourselves, we found data records saying we had lived in places we had never lived, and employment history showing us working at places we had never been to (we requested the records be corrected).

All of these grand databases that are being data mined to improve marketing are full of crap. No amount of artificial intelligence, data science or data mining can fix that these databases are full of crap information.

Verizon, AT&T said to deny sales of Huawei cell phones

Allegedly, both AT&T and Verizon have denied Huawei the opportunity to sell their Honor brand cell phones in their U.S. stores – ostensibly under orders of the U.S. government over security issues regarding China. It sounds, though, that it might actually be about Huawei not cooperating with the U.S. government to spy using Huawei technology vis a vis this item:

The US government was apparently able to negotiate these agreements even with foreign entities by leveraging existing legal regulations. In some cases, officials held up proposed business dealings using the Federal Communications Commission’s oversight of telecommunications. According to the Post, this helped government lawyers in persuading foreign companies to allow the US to maintain such extensive access. It’s unclear just how many companies the US has made these deals with, and for now, the extent of the federal government’s access remains classified.

Huawei also makes Internet switches and is a big competitor to Cisco – in other words, Huawei makes Internet backbone gear.

Source: Major internet backbones required to give US government quick access to data – The Verge

It is clear, at this point, that the U.S. government has the means to spy on everyone, 24 x 7, if they wish. Nothing we do online is secure. Period.

Within 20 years, a majority of today’s jobs may be automated

Study finds that 2 in 3 jobs in Las Vegas may be automated by 2035. That’s just the headline.

The real story is that 50% or more of jobs in most metro areas at a risk of automation by 2035. Areas in yellow, orange and red indicate where more than 50% of local jobs are at risk of being automated by 2035.

Source: Future job automation to hit hardest in low wage metropolitan areas like Las Vegas, Orlando and Riverside-San Bernardino | ISEA

Studies like these should be viewed as “possible scenarios” and not as absolute predictions for the future.

Automation has been happening for a hundred years. New, low cost technology enables automation to be applied in places where it was previously cost prohibitive or the tasks were too difficult to automate. This change is happening quickly.

Again, as frequently noted on this blog, automation is happening. The rapid increase in minimum wage and benefit requirements is accelerating the trend towards automation, improved work place efficiency and variable cost cutting – and a loss of many types of jobs (not all job losses will be low skilled either).

The primary business of the Internet is surveillance

Similar to Uber’s “God View” scandal, Lyft staffers have been abusing customer insight software to view the personal contact info and ride history of the startup’s passengers. One source that formerly worked with Lyft tells TechCrunch that widespread access to the company’s backend let staffers “see pretty much everything including feedback, and yes, pick up and drop off coordinates.”When asked if staffers, ranging from core team members to customer service reps, abused this privilege, the source said “Hell yes. I definitely looked at my friends’ rider history and looked at what drivers said about them. I never got in trouble.”

Source: Former employees say Lyft staffers spied on passengers | TechCrunch

Web site Quartz recently discovered that Google routinely logs quite a bit of information in your Location History, plus uses Bluetooth devices as an additional source of location information – even when you have Location turned off. Even on phones not having a SIM card installed.

Surveillance and privacy violations are the primary business purpose of the Internet.