The document may be read-only or encrypted

For a difference, this is a tech how-to post.

A little over two week back or so, due to COVID 19 situation, I had started to work remotely. I’ve been setting up the home computer by porting all the required official data to do the work remotely.  As I work on engineering product design, two programs that I use extensively is AutoCAD and Excel. It’s paramount that this two stuff work well in order for me to work effectively.

While starting using excel on remote files synced to home, I kept on getting an error that prevented me from opening these remote files.  I’m pretty much sure that many of you would be struggling to work remotely due to this error and at least some of you might have got the exact same error. So I thought of writing a solution here that worked for me and probably would work for everyone. Another reason is that I figured this out after almost one week. So, I thought of helping people in the same situation and to save their time.

In Windows 10, when you open any excel document, if you see the below error

The document may be read-only or encrypted

Normally this error pops up when an individual file is read-only or encrypted. But the files that I was trying to open weren’t encrypted or read-only and I kept on getting the same error. If you’re tired of digging through forums in vain, here’s the fix.

Press the Windows Key + R to open Run Console.
Type in %tmp%

Now, we have to give permissions to this folder. For that, click on “Advanced” near permissions section in the Security tab and give full control. This should solve this error.
For some reason, excel requires Full Control from administrator accounts on the temporary files folder in order to function in Windows 10.

Using QR presets/filters in Snapseed – Step by Step method

Google’s Snapseed  ( iPhone | Android ) is unarguably one of the most popular mobile photo editors available for free and is known for its ease of use, simplicity and the array of professional image editing features packed into it. It also has the ability to do a lot of effects and adjustments on top of each other and this sequence or stack of edits can be labeled or archived so that you can use the same sequence or package of edits across several images. This allows you to save a set of edits matching your style and liking.  A lot of you might be aware of this app and might be using it regularly. But I’m now sharing a powerful feature of this app that allows you to prepare presets/filters and share it with others. You can also use presets/filters prepared by others. In some other professional editing programs like Lightroom, these presets are files which you’d have to download and use it in the program window. The process remains the same for other major image editing programs as well as of today.  Snapseed has gone a step further and has come up with an intuitive way to use and share presets. They do it through QR codes. I’ll explain it in 4 easy steps

Step 1 – Open any image on Snapseed mobile app.
After opening the image, press the icon as shown below.

Step 2 – In the submenu that appears, click on QR Look.

Step 3 – Press on Scan QR look. This would open the camera and you’ve to scan the QR code of a preset or effect. As an example, below is a sample preset that I had created called Warmia. As a demo, you can try to scan this QR code and a set of effects would be performed on the image.

For instance, below is a preset “Warmia” that I created as a demo. In Step 3, when you’re asked for a QR code, the below QR code could be scanned. You can also create your own effects by choosing Create QR Look in Step 3 shown above.

Step 4 – There is not Step 4. Sit back as your image is being professionally enhanced : )

Over the past couple of years, I’ve created several Snapseed filters for my personal use. As a series, I’m thinking of introducing these presets with my community in several chapters. In each episode of these series, I shall try to share some of the filters and presets that I’ve spent a lot of loved time curating and tuning in with hundreds of images. Stay tuned for those to come in. Let me know your feedback.

Explore Snapseed filter packs from The Border of a Mind:

Warmia – a color palette suitable for objects shot in close range in an indoor setting.

Planted Aquariums – Making them last!

Maintaining a planted aquarium would require care and attention that can be fueled by your passion to keep it going and a solid understanding on the different components and aspects that we need to be aware to use them wisely. We’ve a tank running from November’2019 and I shall share some details that I learned purely by my experience of curating them. I shall also put in some details of products tried and found to work well. Instead of making this a long format post, let’s make it short and simple.

For planted aquariums, if we take care of the below aspects, we’d find it lasting and healthy.

  • Ample light – It’s very important that the aqua plants get enough light to live on. A very important aspect that might be unfamiliar with newbies would be on the amount of light to be used in the aquarium. Having the right balance of light exposure is paramount. Based on my research online and watching several videos of aquarium curation, 8 hours of consistent light is the golden number that seems to strike the balance. If we go below 8 hours, the plants wouldn’t have sufficient light for their photosynthetic activities and they won’t stay longer. On the other hand, if we put in excess light beyond 8 hours, that’d lead to excess algae growth which eventually can deteriorate the quality of the tank. Hence, the balance of 8 hours is very important in my experience handling them. I use a Wifi plug timed with Amazon Alexa for lighting up from 5 PM to 1 AM so that we can avoid the hassle of switching on and off on a timely basis.
  • Water Quality / Dechlorination – This is something very obvious. Aquascaped plants and fauna would require good quality water to flourish. If you are lucky to be in a village area with good water quality, especially from a well, then there is no need to go for any dechlorination or denitration activities. On the other hand, if you’re living in a city and getting municipal water lines, there’s a good chance that there’s good chlorine content in the water and unless it’s not your permanent place of stay, it’s a complicated process to have sort of a dechlorination set up ( a mini plant). For most of us, this might be impractical. The best solution is to use commonly available dechlorinating chemicals in the market. The ratio of usage would be specified in the pack and depending on the volume of the tank, it can be used. These chemicals remove chlorines and chloramines and can also aid detoxifying ammonium. (Product I’ve tried – SERA Chlor-ex)
  • Carbon dioxide Supply – If you’ve aquatic plants, having a robust supply of carbon dioxide is as important as ensuring good water quality. For good plant growth, carbon dioxide is an essential component.  Carbon dioxide in its purest form is a gas, but like oxygen, it can be readily dissolved in water. Just like how a tree or grass in the garden would do, aquatic plants would require dissolved carbon dioxide to photosynthesize. There’re several ways to provide dissolved carbon dioxide to the aquairum. For larger tanks, this is done with a CO2 cylinder and a slow diffuser (something like this).  Using a C02 cylinder can turn out to be expensive. So, if you have a smaller tank like mine, an alternative cost-effective solution would be to use CO2 tablets. The quantity to be used would be in the packaging. For my smaller tank, I generally pop in half a tablet per week. Similar quantities could be tried and you can see the results. I try not to put in excess tablets as it’s important to note that Co2 can cause pH level swings in the tank. We need to note that carbon dioxide, when dissolved in water, is pushing the pH towards the acidic side. Excess built up of CO2 added to the tank can cause the pH level to drop rapidly and can cause damage to the aquatic elements in the tank.
  • Plant Nutrient Supply – This is another important aspect. Regardless of our assurance on good quality water and ample carbon dioxide supply in the tank, essentials nutrients and liquid fertilizing are required for ensuring good growth of aquatic plants. They’ve all the necessary minerals and trace elements. I’ve tried certain products from SERA (Florena) that seem to work well in my experience of using them.
  • Food for fish – Food fish is normally available in variants of granules or flakes. Depending on the fish types you have, the type of food can be selected. I have a small tank with some Neon Tetras and Half Moon Bettas and I feed them granules and it happens to work well for them. It’s very important to take care of not feeding the fishes excessively. Not only is it harmful to the fish but at the same time, it can lead to some excess debris in the tank that could lead to other detrimental growths that we don’t need in the tank.
  • Snails in the tank – Snails, again like other things are to be used in a balance. Snails can be a good inhabitant in an aquarium as they are natural vacuum cleaners and can be used as effective tank cleaners. They are potential algae eaters and can free the tank from uneaten food, dead plant matter, and other debris. But they can spread rapidly as well and kind of do the opposite effect and it might be difficult to control them and can end up as straight-up pests. Hence, they’re to be monitored closely and a balance has to be struck.
  • Taking control of Algae growth – Every planted aquarium hobbyist or enthusiast would have to face algae menace in their tanks at some point or the other. When I started up, I didn’t have any clue on certain growths at some portions of the tank and it took some research to understand that they’re basically different types of algae. If you search on it, there’re different types of algae like brown algae, white algae, etc. I would recommend to google the type of growth you notice and you’ll find Youtube videos on effective methods of removing them. When I clean the tank, I closely examine the wooden portions and plant stems for any algae growth and I try my best to scrape them off. Trust me, algae, if not brought in control, can completely jeopardize your planted tank dreams.
  • Setting a routine and order in cleaning & maintaining – We need to spare half an hour every week to clean, curate and maintain the tank. I recommend around 25-40% water change every week with proper dechlorination and other treatments. CO2 charging need to be done regularly once in a week in a consistent manner. While cleaning, take extra care to scrape any algae growth from wooden or rocky elements in the fish tank.

Below, I’m sharing the details of the products that I’ve tried. This is sort of like a kit or suite of items that I use regularly on a weekly basis. Hope I could help with some information and basic guideline on curating a healthy tank. Happy Aquascaping!

Some resources of interest that have inspired me with aquascaping are linked below:
MD Fish Tanks (I had sent a personal message to MD thanking him for his videos)
Aquarium Co-Op
Planted Aquarium Tutorial by Botanical Woman.

How to create a quick 3D view on a 2D plane with ‘gradient hatch’ in AutoCAD

One of the most underrated visual features in AutoCAD is gradient hatch.

On creating quick representations or illustrations for conveying a concept in sketch, instead of having an inceptive reliance on a full feature overblown 3D design software package, this nifty feature of gradient hatch could often come in handy for small scale and expeditious illustrations.

For example, to give a 3D feel to a cylindrical section, we can apply gradient hatch to a vertical rectangle. I shall demonstrate it with a simple example below.  The first step is to draw a simple rectangle.
Next, we need to give it a gradient hatch in order to give that 3D pipe-like cylindrical appearance. Type in command ‘h‘  on the AutoCAD command line to open the hatch settings panel. Go to the Gradient tab. Here, we have a choice to go for either one color or two color option. Personally, I prefer a two-color palette in order to customize it well.

Select Two Color from the Gradient tab. For the best professional appearance, I recommend using only blacks and whites instead of any flashy colors. Here, you have to be careful to use the white color at the centre and as it widens to the centre, it gradually turns to black. For that, use the first color as pure white and the second color as pure black and select the option as shown below.

So in a minute, we have this below appearance.

I’m aware that an advanced 3D program like Solidworks, for example, can give much better visual appearances. However, for a very quick and nifty solution on a program like AutoCAD which is much more universal in its reach across industries, I hope this turns out to be much more useful.

Vehicle blocking your way in UAE parking spaces/roads? Don’t worry. Have it removed in less than 15 minutes!

I thought of sharing it here in case if this could help some of you in the UAE.

There can be situations when you’ve to go somewhere urgently and you find your car being blocked by some other vehicle parked in front of you. Normally in the UAE, people often have this practice of leaving their phone numbers on the car dashboard so that they can be called in case if we want the car to be removed. But yes, there can be instances when they have not left the phone number on the dashboard and you cannot take your vehicle out without the other person moving his / her car.

Although been in Dubai for a long time now, I was truly not aware of an awesome service that comes to our rescue in such circumstances. Dubai Police app, renowned for its smart features and ease of use has a very interesting feature that helps anyone in such a situation. It’s basically a service that can be used to alert vehicles obstructing traffic. It does great help to tackle motorists who block our way.

So this is the sequence. It’s very easy. It takes only 2 minutes to do this.

* Download Dubai Police application
* Authenticate. You can enter your phone number and they’ll send an OTP to verify.
* In the “traffic services” section, look for something like “obstructing traffic flow
* Click on report obstructing traffic flow offense
* They’ll ask you to snap a picture & enter any information you’d like to.
When you take the snap, try your best to show the vehicle number and also demonstrate how it is clearly blocking your way.
* Send it to Dubai Police

Immediately Police will send an SMS to the car owner instructing to remove the car and they’ll give you a phone number to contact in case the vehicle is not removed in 15 minutes.  I have tried this from Sharjah and can confirm that it works. For instance, the below message is that I got after completing a report.

I personally had to travel urgently for a medical-related matter and found a car blocking my way. I checked on the dash and there was no number left on the dashboard so that I could call and ask the person to move his car. In this situation, I looked online on a workaround and found this solution. I would recommend all of you staying in UAE to have Dubai Police app installed as they have a lot of amazing smart services that’ll save you a lot of time. If you’re traveling for an emergency, this app is truly a Godsend. They can handle minor violations online and can even help you file a report for smaller accidents. I truly believe that these small things matter a lot for citizens and residents and would be conducive to having a great experience and simply have them so happy interacting with government services and the UAE government’s smart services are truly remarkable & way ahead of time in these aspects.

digitize better.

We are living in a world wherein documentations are increasingly handled digitally and governments and institutions are pacing swiftly towards a paperless future. Every one of us has important documents that we need for different purposes. These important documents may include your national ID card, passport, driving license, ATM cards, credit cards, health cards, vehicle licenses, insurance documents, visa copy (in case if you are an expat living in a foreign country), any other relevant certificates, etc. There are instances when we need to have them shown or submitted for a variety of administrative or clerical purposes. People generally have their digital versions scattered all around the place. Either it might be in an email abyss or in some pen drive or some cloud service which is not organized well. The core reason for relying on digitization of any sort of document is retrievability.  If we cannot retrieve a particular document when it is exactly required, that defeats the purpose of documenting them in the first place. In this post, I shall share some of the ways that I have been using for several years now for digitally organizing documents.

The first thing is to have a scanning app on your phone. My recommendations are Scanner Mini and Microsoft Office Lens. This will help you to quickly scan any paper documents you’ve. After you have the documents scanned and available, you can try any of these options:

Google photos has been really useful for everyone to organize their photos very conveniently and curate them well using AI technology. But we can use it as a tool for storage and retrieval of our documents as well. Let’s say you have a driving license to be scanned. Use any of the apps specified above and get it scanned as an image. Rename them as “Driving License” and save them to Google Photos. In Google photos, select this photo and add it to a new album and rename it as “Driving License”. So the next time, when you’re outside and you quickly need to have the soft copy of your driving license, just search by “Driving license” in your Google photos library, and the license would pop up as an album. I recommend spending an hour digitizing all the important documents that you may need to retrieve for any purpose.

In the same way, cloud backup services like Dropbox, Box or Google Drive shall also be used to store these documents. All the relevant documents can be properly named and archived with any of these services. The same approach can be also used for other documents like receipts, certificates, etc as well. Scanning alone is not sufficient. Archiving is closely tied with a proper identifiable organization of these documents and their swift retrieval. Archival, identification and retrievability need to be a cohesive process. Each person has got different sets of requirements and the way of archival would also be different. The key is to adapt the method that is the most effortless for you.

We can’t underestimate the convenience and ease of use that this practice of digitizing documents and organizing them properly ensues in our daily lives. Let’s be more organized. God bless!