If you want to eject your smartphone from the bedroom but currently use it to get you up in the morning, you need something else to do that job instead. From basic models, to smart alarms, what are the best options for your bedside table?
Basic alarm clock
RRP: from £5
If you only want something to make a loud noise at a set time that isn’t your phone, basic models start at about £5, including the well-reviewed Constant alarm clock from Argos. It has a simple alarm, glow-in-the-dark hands to enable you to tell the time in the night and is battery operated, so you can put it anywhere.
More stylish analogue alarms cost about £20. Cheap no-brand digital alarm clocks cost from about £10 with branded products from companies such as Braun, Casio and Seiko costing from £15.
For a similar price you can get a radio-controlled clock that sets the time automatically when it is first switched on. Acctim makes several versions with displays including the day, date and temperature, and a light that comes on at the touch of a button. The £30 Invicta looks stylish with its dark grey case or there are cheaper versions in other finishes.
Pitfalls to look out for are screens that are too bright at night, dimmer functions that make high-pitched whines and analogue clocks that make loud ticking sounds.
Verdict: It may be worth spending a bit more to get something good.
Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
RRP: £59.99 – deals from £34.99
The simplest smart alarm clock is Echo Dot with Clock – it is Amazon’s cheapest Alexa smart speaker with an LED clock that glows through the front mesh and dims with ambient light. When set, it displays the time and your alarms, which you can set to repeat weekly, on weekdays or only at weekends.
Otherwise, it is the same as any Echo speaker. Four buttons on top take care of volume, mute and actions. The light ring at the top shows when it is listening to you.
It sounds good for the money and is perfect for radio, or can pair with another Bluetooth speaker or output via a standard 3.5mm socket. It can be grouped with other Echo devices for multi-room audio, too. If you want a version that’s a full smart display there is the £50 Echo Show 5 as an alternative.
Verdict: A small, simple and smart Alexa alarm clock replacement.
Lenovo Smart Clock
RRP: £79.99 – deals from £40
The 4in touchscreen Lenovo shows a big clock most of the time rather than photos or other information.
It is pretty compact and there is no camera to be worried about in the bedroom. It is powered by Google Assistant, which can run all sorts of routines alongside various different alarms, so you can set it up to automate your mornings or nights, such as turning lights off, showing you the traffic ready for your commute.
The speaker can play all sorts of music and radio stations, connecting via wifi and Bluetooth, with volume buttons on the top if you don’t want to touch the screen. It can display camera feeds and information in response to questions, while a built-in USB socket can charge your phone, if you insist.
Verdict: A small, compact and cute Google Assistant alarm clock.
Google Nest Hub
RRP: £79.99 – deals from £59
If you live in Google’s ecosystem and want a bigger screen on your bedside display, Google’s Nest Hub is one of the best you can buy. The Assistant’s volume reduces automatically and the screen dims at night with an optional clock display, while the built-in speaker is great for internet radio or music services.
The 7in screen makes holiday snaps pulled from your Google Photos library look fantastic as backdrops to the clock, weather and other information. There is no camera to worry about and the design is compact and stylish.
You can set multiple repeating alarms, while routines can be used to turn things on and off as you go to bed or wake up. It can act as a good touch-control centre for smart home devices and show feeds from smart cameras.
Verdict: A small and great smart display that’s not too expensive.
Full review: Google Nest Hub review: the smart display to buy
RRP: from £105 – deals from £90
These are essentially alarm clocks that wake you up with light, with sound as a backup. The theory is that simulating dawn with increasing levels of light triggers your natural arousal, so that by the time it ramps up to maximum brightness you are ready to wake, feeling refreshed rather than feeling as if you have been dragged out of the deepest, darkest void.
Philips has been making them for the best part of two decades. Its current products are expensive but still popular, with better light than most competitors and fairly simple operation. The standard Wake-up light (HF3520; £90) resembles an old car headlamp, beams light in a diffuse pattern into your room and has five wake-up sounds and an FM radio but the speakers aren’t great.
The latest SmartSleep Connected lamp (HF3671; £250) has a more modern design, is slightly brighter and more room-filling, plus it is equipped with FM-only radio, wifi and smartphone control.
DAB-equipped premium rivals are available for about £200, such as the Lumie Bodyclock Luxe 750DAB (£199.99). Be aware if you sleep facing away from it that the amount of light these produce might not be enough to wake you.
Verdict: Wake-up lights are particularly effective as we head into the darker winter months.
NBC Sports Network will cease operations in 2021
Ivan Provorov #9 of the Philadelphia Flyers plays the puck against Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins during the first period in a Round Robin game during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff at Scotiabank Arena on August 02, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario.
Mark Blinch | National Hockey League | Getty Images
The NBC Sports Network is shutting down.
The network will stop operations by the end of 2021, a person familiar with the plan confirmed to CNBC. NBC will transfer its sports media rights, including the National Hockey League, to USA Network. The person spoke to CNBC on condition of anonymity as the individual isn’t allowed to comment publicly on the matter. Both networks are owned by CNBC parent company NBCUniversal.
The plan to halt operations will allow NBC to attract more reach for its sports content. USA Network is available in 86 million homes, while NBCSN has an estimated 80 million household reach.
NBCUniversal initially hoped NBC Sports Network would be its response to Disney‘s ESPN — a cable sports network that could justify high affiliate fees from pay-TV distributors because of its popular sports content. Twenty-first Century Fox developed Fox Sports 1 and CBS introduced CBS Sports Network for similar reasons.
But none of the cable sports networks have ever seriously threatened ESPN, and the media industry’s move toward streaming video has made linear sports networks anachronistic. NBCUniversal is considering shutting down several networks, CNBC reported in October, to consolidate its best assets in fewer networks. Shuttering underperforming cable networks could allow legacy media companies to keep the shrinking cable bundle afloat while maintaining subscription revenue by boosting fees for its existing networks.
The network started in the 1990s as the Outdoor Life Network, then was rebranded to Versus in 2006. Comcast owned the network when it took over NBCUniversal in 2011, and rebranded it as the NBC Sports Network at that time.
NHL playoff games, a selection of NASCAR races, and Premier League content will transfer to USA Network after NBCSN closes.
The Stamford, Connecticut-based network took over NHL rights with a 10-year, $2 billion package in 2011. The agreement runs through the current 2020-21 season.
NBCSN also has a $4.4 billion rights package with NASCAR that expires in 2024 and coming up on its renewal option with European’s soccer Premier League rights (worth roughly $1 billion). The network moved some of those games to NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, last year.
Longtime sports media rights advisor Lee Berke said the move is “back to the future” for USA Network airing sports content. The channel was originally a national distribution arm for Madison Square Garden Sports Network, airing sports content including the National Basketball Association until 1984.
“The fact that sports is returning to USA isn’t a new concept,” Berke told CNBC in an interview on Friday. “Certainly the distribution is helpful but this move is reflective of a couple of things — the pay TV bundle is shrinking. Subscriber base is shrinking. So, it justifies fewer networks to be on the air and the other part of it is the growth of streaming.”
Berke, the CEO of LHB Sports, a sports consultancy firm, said streaming trends is forcing network to reinvent themselves “as consumer viewing behavior changes. The was a migration of sports from broadcast to cable over the past 20, 30 years when pay TV became bigger and bigger. And now you’re seeing sports migrating to streaming.
“I think its a sensible move given the trends that are taking place,” said Berke of NBCSN’s closure. “You’re trying to stay ahead of the wave. You don’t want to be behind it and miss out. But this makes sense based off where pay TV is heading and base on where streaming is heading.”
Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is the parent company of CNBC.
‘Touching fish’ craze see China’s youth find ways to laze amid ‘996’ work culture | China
On the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, enthusiastic slackers share their tips: fill up a thermos with whisky, do planks or stretches in the work pantry at regular intervals, drink litres of water to prompt lots of trips to the toilet on work time and, once there, spend time on social media or playing games on your phone.
“Not working hard is everyone’s basic right,” said one netizen. “With or without legal protection, everyone has the right to not work hard.”
Young Chinese people are pushing back against an engrained culture of overwork, and embracing a philosophy of laziness known as “touching fish”. The term is a play on a Chinese proverb: “muddy waters make it easy to catch fish”, and the idea is to take advantage of the Covid crisis drawing management’s focus away from supervising their employees.
The author of a viral post at the centre of the conversation, Weibo user Massage Bear, described “touching fish” as a life attitude.
“[It] is a life philosophy of perfunctory living, letting go of oneself and others at the same time… and that’s the key to living in the moment and being relaxed,” she said.
Some make a game of it, Quartz reported, aiming to be the employee who uses the most toilet paper, or getting up from their desk whenever any other colleague does.
The deliberate slowdown at work marks a cultural shift among younger generations who are pushing back against unhealthy work hours for little gain, and not seeing the opportunities for upward mobility experienced by their parents.
“The fundamental reason for me to do that is that I no longer believe that I can get a promotion in my current company by hard work and ability,” said one Weibo user.
“There’s a joke in the tech industry, if you work hard before 35 as engineer in a food delivery company, then after 35 you are the delivery guy,” said Suji Yan, a 25-year-old chief executive of a tech startup mask.io.
“I’ve heard of people being fired after 35 because they spent less time in the company, because they have families to look after and they have less energy than the younger people.”
The “touching fish” movement has a sense of humour, but behind it is a deadly serious issue. Recent deaths have again highlighted the dangers in China’s “996” work culture – a reference to working 9am to 9pm, six days a week at a minimum, particularly in the tech industry and among food delivery drivers. The 996 attitude is widespread, despite labour laws saying work should be limited to eight hours a day, for an average of 44 hours a week.
Media reports include anecdotes of employees being offered bonuses or fold-out beds for under the desk if they work overtime, fines for missing phone calls, and even signal blockers in bathrooms to stop employees using their phones while on their toilet.
“It’s not that I don’t do my job well,” said one Weibo user.
“Touching fish to resist 996 is nothing more than a kind of nonviolent non-cooperation in a harsh working environment and a difficult process of safeguarding rights.”
In December a 23-year-old employee of e-commerce giant Pinduoduo died after working past midnight, the company confirmed earlier this month. While her death hasn’t been formally attributed to overwork, the company attracted furious backlash over the expectations put upon employees, and it was exacerbated further when earlier this month an engineer – surnamed Tan – took his own life.
Shortly afterwards Pinduoduo also fired an employee, named as Wang Taixu. Wang said he was fired after posting a photo online of an ambulance parked outside the company’s Shanghai officer building with the caption “another brave Pinduoduo warrior has fallen”. Pinduoduo reportedly disputed his characterisation of the medical incident and said Wang was fired for “extreme comments made with obvious malice”, violating company rules, and unrelated to the ambulance video. But another video which he posted after he was fired, criticising the intense work culture at the company, was viewed nearly half a million times according to Sixth Tone. Pinduoduo denied the accusations in the video.
Yan said companies got around labour laws in globally familiar ways: hiring people as contractors rather than employees, and incentivising people like delivery drivers to work long hours more often, with bonuses and games, rather than forcing them to do it.
He said as a chief executive he understood the pressures companies were under to increase output, but disagreed with the systematic culture of overwork, and saw the touching fish movement as a form of safe resistance.
“People do that because they have no way of talking to the management.”
Current leading business people are still fans of 996. Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, has said the practice is key to being successful in competitive industries. Xibei Canyin chief executive, Jia Guolong, said people should in fact be working “715” (15 hours a day, seven days a week). In 2019 a Huawei executive boasted that employees asked to work past 10pm. But it has drawn opposition from state media, including Xinhua news and the Communist party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily.
Yan said the tech industry was having a reckoning with how it was enabling the 996 culture, for example by building the technology which exploits delivery drivers. Github, a software development hosting site, has a project called 996.ICU (work 996 and you’ll end up in the intensive care unit), which documents companies enforcing excessive overtime. Yan suggested the project, co-created by his wife Katt Gu and other IT developers and to which he contributes, was in part a way for engineers to make amends.
“There are more and more engineers who are like the Github starters and want to contribute something to society, not to create algorithms to kill more delivery guys,” he said.
“There’s progress. I think my generation, when they become employers and CEOs they’ll have more humane ways of management, they’ll try to fix the system.”
Microsoft president Brad Smith defends MSPAC to employees
Microsoft president Brad Smith takes part in a roundtable discussion with US President Donald Trump and industry executives on reopening the country, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC on May 29, 2020.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
A top Microsoft executive defended the company’s approach to supporting political campaigns in a meeting with employees on Thursday, according to a transcript of the meeting that CNBC reviewed.
Microsoft President and legal chief Brad Smith said Microsoft is evaluating options for the Microsoft Political Action Committee (MSPAC), which employees criticized because it helped finance the campaigns of Congress members who supported Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Microsoft employees in the U.S. can give some of their income to the MSPAC, but have no direct say in which candidates it donates to. On Jan. 11 the company said it was putting donations on hold after the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt, when rioters flooded into the U.S. Capitol during the Electoral College vote count that formalized Joe Biden’s win. The MSPAC had donated to several Republican members of Congress who tried to delay the formal Electoral College vote count, despite the complete lack of evidence of widespread voting fraud.
On Jan. 13 one Microsoft employee, Carmen Crincoli, called for the company to stop supporting members of Congress who voted against the Electoral College results, and to stop giving money directly to elected officials and candidates. He said if the company couldn’t do those things, it should close down MSPAC and ask that employees get involved with politics individually.
Smith, who articulates Microsoft’s position on political topics, addressed the complaints.
“The questions that are being considered are exactly I think what you would expect. Should the PAC suspend donations to the members who voted against the Electoral College? If so, for how long?” Smith said to employees on Thursday.
But he also gave an frank explanation of why the MSPAC was important to Microsoft’s interests:
“I can tell you it plays an important role. Not because the checks are big, but because the way the political process works. Politicians in the United States have events, they have weekend retreats, you have to write a check and then you’re invited and participate. So if you work in the government affairs team in the United States, you spend your weekends going to these events; you spend your evenings going to these dinners, and the reason you go is because the PAC writes a check.
“But out of that ongoing effort a relationship evolves and emerges and solidifies, and I can tell you as somebody who sometimes is picking up the phone, I’m sometimes calling members and asking for their help on green cards, or on visa issues, or help to get an employee or family member who is outside the United States during Covid back into the country because of an immigration restriction.
“Or the issues around national security, or privacy, or procurement reform. Or the tax issues that our finance team manages. And I can tell you, there are times when I call people who I don’t personally know, and somebody will say ‘you know, your folks have always shown up for me at my events. And we have a good relationship. Let me see what I can do to help you.'”
Microsoft declined to comment on Smith’s remarks.
In 2020 hundreds of Facebook employees participated in a protest over the company’s decision to maintain a posts from former President Donald Trump, and in 2018 Google employees protested a contract the company had to supply cloud services to the Pentagon, prompting the company to not renew the contract.
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