Staying Secure While Snowbirding

Back in July, my fiance’s parents closed on a house in Texas.  They live outside of Chicago but they were tired of the cold winters.  Who can blame them, right?!?  They’re doing what a lot of retired people choose to do… snowbird!

Snowbirding is where you have two houses; one is in a warmer climate like Florida or Texas or Arizona and the other is in some area that has colder weather in the winter and you move between the two every year when the weather changes.

Before they packed up the car and made the drive down, we wanted to make sure their house was secure and that they could check up on it as often as they liked.  For that, we bought them a Nest Cam Outdoor.

Nest Camera OutdoorsSetup is really simple, and fortunately for us, Paul’s dad is also really handy.  We were going for a visit and had planned to help him set everything up.  When we got there, he already had the camera mount ready to go exactly where he wanted to place it so all we had to do was get it set up on the network.  As far as installation goes, I should note that he drilled a few holes to wire it up to an existing electric source, but you can simply run a wire and plug it right in if you’re not as technically savvy.

Networking it is pretty easy, too.  The only struggle you may run into is if the router is far away and you’re installing the camera on a brick wall.  We hit this but were able to move the router to a different room.  You could also pick up a network extender if you’re having struggles.  Once we got it on the network, we opened the app, followed the prompts, and saw the video.  It was pretty painless, overall.

They’re really happy with the camera and use it to check on the house from Texas.  Heck, they even get notifications whenever there’s motion or sounds in the vicinity of the camera, alerting them to activity at their front door.  They have even talked about getting a second camera for the back door, too.

Nest ThermostatThey also jumped on the smart thermostat bandwagon to make sure that their house was warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing in the winter.  Nest Thermostat does just that for them.  They set up the thermostat to replace their existing ‘dumb’ thermostat and now it’ll alert them if the temperature in the house falls below a certain threshold.  That setup was easy enough, too, and the fact that the Nest connected to their already-installed Nest Camera app on the phone made life simpler, too.

I’m happy that we were able to get them set up with these devices to give them peace of mind for the handful of months that they’re in the south and I know they’re happy to have that peace of mind, too.

If you’re a snowbird or know someone who is, a connected setup is a great way to go to keep your home and belongings safe while you’re relaxing in the sun.



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Best Android Text Messaging Apps

Alright. So I am picky.

There. I’ve said it. I’m picky.

I like things a certain way and that includes my text messaging app.  I’ve gone through a handful of them and I’m going to run down some of the pros and cons of each. Spoiler alert… one actually really surprised me!

Let’s get to it, then.

Google Messenger

Messenger is a solid app. It works well and I love the use of color. The app puts all of your text messages into one list and used colored circles or images to indicate who you’re chatting with. If you have a group message, everybody gets a different color and that means that you won’t be confused about who is saying what. That’s super-important for me. Unfortunately, Messenger falls short on options. There are practically no real options besides the basic notification sound, vibration, and welp, that’s about it.

Bottom Line: If you like a text messaging app that is simple with no frills, go with Messenger.


Textra's bot welcomes you to the app and tells you about updates.
Textra’s bot welcomes you to the app and tells you about updates.

Textra is great. I used it for quite a while without the desire to change. It has a fantastic integrated animated GIF searcher and allows for a lot of customization. It’s pretty clean, although not as visually appealing as Google’s Messenger. (Man, I’m looking at Messenger now and it just looks so nice. I’m wishing it had more options. Step up your game, Google!) Textra’s high marks come from the fact that it can easily be changed and has lots of options. For example, let’s say I want conversations with family to always be a certain color, I can program that to happen. I can make conversations have specific ringtones, as well. I can skin the whole thing dark or light if I want, too. They also handle group chats wonderfully in their new update. Your group conversations can now be given a name instead of having a bunch of people listed. For example, let’s say you’ve got a fantasy football group that you talk smack to. Name that group Fantasy Football and it’ll show up cleanly in the app. My downfall was with what I mentioned above in the Google Messenger. I like colors for group chats and they didn’t have individual colors per person.

Bottom Line: I used this a lot. It’s solid. I moved on to the one below and it surprised me.

Verizon Message+

Pictures incorporate nicely. Message+ is a solid app.
Pictures incorporate nicely. Message+ is a solid app.

I know a lot of people just ignore the stock apps on their phones. Don’t do that with Verizon Message+. It’s actually a really good app that gives you a lot of customization options. From the start, you get the benefit of your messages being backed up in the cloud. That’s a perk in itself because if you get a new phone, you can quickly recover the majority of them quickly by reloading this app. In addition, you don’t even have to have service to send a text message. Wi-Fi is all you’ll need. Heck, you can even use your computer to send a text message from your own number. I mentioned customization and there’s a lot of it. You have the ability to change: bubble style, bubble color, backgrounds, avatar color, font size and style, emoji style, tones, LED color (if your device supports this), and more. What’s even better is that you can do this globally and on a per-conversation basis. Not only does it have your basic abilities such as camera and gallery, it also has the ability to send users your real-time location, create a collage, or even do a GIF search with the ‘media search’ option. There are always a couple of downsides and for the Message+ app, I don’t love the way the camera and gallery are handled. There are a few improvements that can be made to make them a little more polished. Otherwise, it’s been a really solid app.

Bottom Line: I was surprised. This is a fantastic app with lots of options. While it has a few flaws, mainly in the camera and gallery, it’s still a solid option that should be considered.


I don’t have a lot of experience with many others, but there are a few. Chomp SMS had a lot of options, but if I recall, I couldn’t do the different colored individuals in groups. If it wasn’t that, something else pushed me away. Hangouts from Google is a decent choice if you want a no-frills solution, like Messenger. I thought Allo was going to be a text messaging app, but it wasn’t.  It was more like a WhatsApp where you need to sign up for the service. Neither are really true SMS apps. I don’t have a lot of experience, but a lot of people also use Handcent. I downloaded it briefly and it looks polished. The camera and gallery open to your native apps (big props for this). The group messaging does an okay job differentiating between people, but it isn’t visible enough for me. I also don’t love ads, which I’m assuming you can pay to turn off.

Ultimately, this just comes down to personal preference. Hopefully you can make a better decision based on the reviews above. I have been using Message+ for a while now. I think it’s a nice mix of features and functionality.  Do you have a favorite app for messaging on Android?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (TT_7).

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#5 of 2012: Superstorm Sandy in NYC

The crane toppled and was left dangling atop this skyscraper due to the wind from Sandy.

Working for The Weather Company has taken me a lot of unique places in 2012 and probably the most exciting was New York City just in time to help prepare stations for the onslaught that was about to happen from Superstorm Sandy. <- Yes spellcheck, I know Superstorm isn’t officially a word, but that hasn’t stopped me before.

This once-in-a-lifetime experience came on the heels of being on the road for a few weeks and left me very little time to prepare, but it was worth it.  After going to a friend’s wedding the night before, I had to get my bags repacked and jump back on a plane for NYC on a Saturday because Sandy was coming on Monday.

During my time in NYC, I had the opportunity to visit and help several different news organizations.  On the first day, I spent time at WNYW, the Fox station in town.  I also went to 30 Rockefeller Center and helped Dylan at MSNBC.  On Monday, as Sandy arrived, I spent time at Good Morning America and then went to ABC World News.  

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Groundhog Day: The Rodent Knows All… Or Does He?

Will Phil see his shadow this year? (via

Groundhog Day is tomorrow, so here’s some facts about Punxsutawney Phil and his famous day…

Established in 1887, this is the 125th year since the start of this tradition.  In that time, he’s seen his shadow 99 times. There were 16 times when he didn’t see his shadow, including last year. Nine of those years had no record.  Here are some important years that you should know about.

1887: 1st official trek to Gobbler’s Knob
1918: 18 degrees below zero
1961: 25 degrees below zero
1993: Bill Murray starred in the movie Groundhog Day
1998: Punxsy Phil made his debut online with his first live webcast
2006: Phil wore a ‘Terrible Towel’ in honor of the Steelers trip to the Super Bowl

Oh, and in case you forgot… if Phil sees his shadow, that means that we can expect six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, it means that spring is right around the corner.

So what do you think?  Will this be the 100th time that he sees his shadow?  Or will he say spring is right around the corner (even though it hasn’t even felt like winter yet)?  We’ll find out tomorrow.

If you want more information about Groundhog Day or Punxsutawney Phil, visit


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Welcome to Tender… On The Air!

Enjoying the views at Devil’s Lake State Park just north of Madison ,WI.

Welcome to  My name is Tim Tender.  Pleasure to meet you!

I really do enjoy writing, though I don’t do it as much as I should.  In addition to writing, I enjoy playing hockey, watching TV, listening to alternative music, and playing and creating board games.  Not only did I host a music trivia game show for a while, I also have several of my own board games that have been created and produced.

I used to be on the air on WJAC-TV in Johnstown, PA before moving to Madison, WI to work for Weather Central, nope WSI°, nope The Weather Company, an IBM Business.  Currently, I work as a Media Graphics Designer, creating graphical looks for weather for TV stations across the country.  In 2015 and 2016, I had the opportunity to take to the airwaves again on The Weather Channel and WPXI as a freelancer.  It was great to get back on the air, if for only a short time.

Feel free to check out the videos section to see some of my on-air work.  I created all of the graphics in the videos.

Continue reading for some things that I find interesting.  I’ll share when I have the time.

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