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Make sure tech devices are 'covered'

It's a funny thing about tech devices: Whether it's a smartphone, a tablet, or even a desk top or notebook computer, leaving any of these truly "naked" isn't a wise strategy.

There are folks who do this: I saw one friend with a, well, "bare" iPad just the other morning, but is it truly wise? Things fall, get banged into, or need something more to make them work efficiently.

I believe all the above with so firm a conviction that, when I picked up my "new iPad," as Apple Inc. calls it, my very first move, after making sure it worked, was to have a protective plastic "skin" placed on the front and the back, something I failed to do with the (2011 vintage) iPad 2. Result: a visible scratch on the back cover. There's no hit on the performance, the front, display screen, side, is flawless, but one scratch and I can no longer say (nor would I) that it's in "like new" condition.

So, a word to the wise: Get that tablet covered, fast. Area shopping malls will often have a kiosk offering ZAGG's Invisible Shield protection, applied on site, and costing around $60 (installed). For those who want to take a truly "hands off" approach, it's not a bad deal, in my experience.

Do-it-yourselfers can order Wrapsol's Ultra screen protector, and a "skin" for the back of an iPad, at prices ranging between $34.95 and $39.95. The firm's website,, features instructional videos on installation and boasts scores of satisfied customers.

I'd also get a case for a new iPad, perhaps one that would include a Bluetooth keyboard (for typing). I liked the $99 RightShift from Solid Line Products when I tested it last year, and I still do. A smaller-than-optimal, in my opinion, quote-mark-and-apostrophe key, is a bit of a challenge, but not insurmountable.

Just received, and quite impressive, is the Professional WorkStation Portfolio from iLuv, list priced at $119.99. This keyboard features a larger return key and quote-mark/apostrophe key than the RightShift. Its Bluetooth keyboard is detachable, too (held in place by Velcro straps). Using it, I had a bit of trouble from hitting the Caps Lock key instead of the Shift key on the left side, but that should clear up with time.

The iLuv case is a bit more stylish, I think, particularly the small easel in the back. It's a very solid product, and I recommend it for the on-the-go iPad user.

Both keyboards are charged via a USB cable, and should hold that charge for quite some time, as well as offering good battery life. Still, it's wise to make sure everything is charged before an important work session.

And why, you might ask, would one want a separate keyboard when the iPad has an onscreen one? For one thing, the onscreen keyboard is in two sections: one for letters and a couple of basic punctuation marks, the other for numbers and symbols. Confusing and a bit time consuming, in my view. Second, not using the onscreen keyboard gives you more room in which to work.

What about desktop computer users, or those who park their notebooks in a docking station?

Glad you asked: the Matias Tactile Pro 3, $149.95, is made the way they used to make computer keyboards. Big, solid, responsive keys, a long cable so you can position the keyboard just about anywhere you like, and a nice, big, separate numeric keypad. Oh, and there are three high-power USB ports also, to let you charge or sync things such as an iPhone or MP3 player.

Though primarily designed for Mac users, the keyboard can also be used with a Windows PC. In use, you know you're typing on a real, honest-to-goodness computer keyboard. I like the feel and I recommend this keyboard for those who want something more than the manufacturer-supplied item, but if your work environment is very quiet, the audible feedback from typing -- some would call that "noise" is noticeable.