Boot Windows 7 (and above) installer with HDD/SDD drives

For some very old system that doesn’t support hardware USB CD-ROM (ISO) emulators (or it only has USB 1.1 ports which is begrudgingly slow), there’s a way to put your installer in a HDD/SSD (IDE/SATA) and boot the installer image on them. Turns out it’s quite easy. All you need to do is copy the set of entire Windows installation files in an MBR drive with partition set active, then write the boot sector to it!

  1. Make sure your HDD is in MBR, not GPT
  2. Make a partition that’s bootable (can be NTFS) by marking it as Active (Active partition only make sense with MBR. That’s why you should make your disk MBR)
  3. Copy all the files from Windows CD image to the drive
  4. Run the following code the build the boot sector for the drive. One interesting twist is that you must run this command from the drive letter you want to rebuild the boot sector (or it’ll refuse to run) yet you have to specify what drive letter to rebuild the boot sector! Let’s call the drive P:\
P:\:> bootsect /nt60 P:\

The /nt60 is the modern boot manager for Windows 7 and above. /nt52 is Windows XP and old NT style (NTLDR) boot manager. Miss the old days when I was using winnt /b!

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Windows 10 not sharing files (also not ping-able) out of the box

Firewall exception for “File and Printer Sharing” is not enabled by default. Check the boxes below to enable CIFS/SMB sharing.

Enabling “File and Printer Sharing” also enables pinging into the said Windows 10 machine since this group also enable “Echo Request – ICMPv4) that the details can be seen in Advanced Firewall Config rules.

Command line shortcuts

netsh advfirewall firewall set rule group="Network Discovery" new enable=Yes
netsh advfirewall firewall set rule group="File and Printer Sharing" new enable=Yes

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Moving Windows User Folders quickly

Just out of good housekeeping, I’d like to move user folder to another drive letter so I can back it up quickly for re-installing Windows or plan program storage better (anything that can be re-installed, I don’t care to back it up).

There’s a lot of warning about messing with redefining where %userprofile% points to (which is %systemdrive%\Users\%username%) or using symbolic links (such as subst) for file redirection. So I’m sticking to the officially supported ways that doesn’t involve scripting or messing with the registry, i.e. move only the ones Microsoft expects users to be able to move it themselves.

I’ve identified these folders are safe to move:

The basic user shell folders

For a newly installed Windows 10, that’s basically every subfolders in %userprofile% itself!

Here’s the dumb way to do it which is taught nearly everywhere since Windows 7: using the location tab in these special shell folders:

They told you the hard and dangerous way modifying the registry, namely HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders:

It’d be a pain in the ass to do it for 13 folders in Windows 10 (much less in Windows 7 so it was reasonable to do it this way back in the days). Turns out through experimentation, I figured that you can just move the shell folders to your chosen the destination folder, and the shell folders (which are decorated with extra features) can figure out they are being moved register the notifiers (aka the registry) properly, which is all the steps in location tab condensed to one drag and drop!

I observed the registry location and see what are the impact of the moves. A bunch of new entries are created corresponding to the 13 subfolders being moved

I believe those are the unique names for the named folder as their superficial name can change without having program confused about their nature.

I noticed only 6 core subfolders (which are the bread and butter ones that was there since Windows 7) is updated with the new path.

The others that are not changed are heavily tied to programs you installed (AppData) and Windows Explorer config (start menu, right-click explorer context menus) and IE stuff (cache and cookies). These data do not relate to the typical files users must backup but the configuration files that store user preferences. This is why I’m not surprised when Microsoft tells people not to mess with them because old software cruft might not handle them in a unified way after 20+ years of evolution.

App/Tiles (Metro UI) data starting Windows 8

Easus’ blog page might have confused the shell folders with files for Metro UI (Apps) and thought this is another way of moving files, which isn’t. This is the additional step specific to Tiled App files:

What I forgot to annotate above is “New apps will save to:” will also generate a \WindowsApps\MutableBackup folder. Such “Program Files” is owned by ‘SYSTEM’ account and “WindowsApps” is owned by ‘TrustedInstaller’ account, which you cannot clean them up after you changed your mind without first taking ownership and give yourself full permissions. Here are the folders created by the first item of the “Change where new contents is saved” page:

It’s usually more convenient to move the shell folders to {target drive}:\%username% that’s shared with the special folders for the Apps with the same name so Apps and programs can share files with a common folder. But technically these are two split concepts and you are free to make them separate.

The registry is not where you should muck with the path. Please let Windows’s proper user interface (shell folder’s Location folder handling) do it as registry is just one of the many places they will manage the settings. Also remember moving these special (aka shell) folders do not move your %userprofile% which is your home folder that things like Powershell starts with by default (I had to change the working directory and there isn’t a variable associated with the {target drive}:\%username% because variables to those special folders do not manage their root.

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Concurrent sessions (RDP wrapper)

Basically allowing multiple users logged into Windows at the same time boils down to modifying 12 dwords (32-bit words) or 48 bytes in termsrv.dll and the content and location (byte offset) varies depending on which version it is.

The rest is just fighting with file lock behavior, Windows self-repair, updates, anti-virus and things that tries to ‘correct’ the modified file so the changes stick. These are hell of hard and tedious.

RDP wrapper was the tool to do this but it stopped updating since 2017 so it won’t track any updates and newer versions pushed later.

There is a tool called autoupdate that rides on top of RDP wrapper which automates the process for each version that was pushed out with the (byte location, byte values) defined in a config file called rdpwrap.ini.

Basically extract all the zip files to the same folder and copy the latest INI file along with it, run the helper routine

autoupdate -taskadd

to add the startup hook (running helper\autoupdate__enable_autorun_on_startup.bat does the same thing) then run the main routine


That’s it!

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How to get a CAP (cantonese IME /w swearwords) and coexist with mozc (Japanese IME) in Linux

I’ve been using CPIME for ages and I’m comfortable with Sidney Lau’s phonetic scheme. Jyutping is unnatural to Hongkongers because we do not consider ‘j’ a ‘y’ sound like Germans do.

However, since Windows 10, there aren’t much choices when it comes Cantonese IME that defaults to Sidney Lau’s and yet it accommodates common swearwords (including the most common ones that were technically incorrect) well. The only reasonable choice is Andrew Choi’s CAP, which I will write about how to get it working for Windows 10 on another blog post.

There aren’t much choices for Linux either. There’s RIME, but it’s super hard to install and Sidney Lau’s phonetic scheme is buried deep down that can only be changed with shortcut keys during the IME composition mode. The deal breaker is t.he lack of swearword support. Being able to type 林鄭我𨳒你老母 is essential for every self-respecting Cantonese speaker. 「屌」你老母 just won’t cut it. Lol.

CAP takes a quite bit of wrestling to get it to install in Windows (in another post) and quite a bit of wrestling to get it to function in Linux. Once you get it working, it’s a very powerful Cantonese IME that allows superfast typing unless you plan to play with words (玩食字). I just can’t praise the IME design enough and I was willing to deal with the quirks which curbs its wide adoption.

Andrew Choi made a few release at his blog page in 2012 (ibus), 2015 (ibus), 2018 (fcitx), 2019 (fcitx4) and 2021 (fcitx4). For the linux version, this blog post is only concerned with the 2021 version (latest at the time of writing).

For Linux CAP, installing the debian package is the easiest part:

sudo dpkg -i fcitx-cap_1.0.0_amd64.deb

The thorns are

  1. get the CAP show up on the list of valid input methods
  2. fend of fcitx5 which is trying to kill CAP
  3. deal with IME settings state corruption (especially when working with other IME)
  4. live with being unable to select characters from subsequent pages of selection candidates

CAP is not immediately available as an IME out of the box
(even after installing the .deb package)


You will need to add Chinese to “Install / Remove Language” under “Language Support” to get anything to show up there!

Fend off fcitx5

fcitx5 was recently released and Ubuntu is aggressively trying to push it onto every user. However, its very existence kills the currently available CAP which is written for fcitx4 as of the 2021 release. This means you will have to give up fcitx5 if you want to use CAP!

Fcitx5 is considered as a replacement for fcitx4, so whenever Ubuntu sees that you have fcitx installed (which is likely fcitx4), it’ll tempt you into installing fcitx5. DO NOT ACCEPT THE INVITATION! However, fcitx5 do not coexist with fcitx4. Your fcitx4 will be removed the moment you installed fcitx4. To go back to fcitx4, you have first to remove fcitx5 completely then re-install fcitx.

What makes things more complicated is that Ubuntu’s gnome Language Support GUI keeps prompting you to install fcitx5 whenever you start it or do something with it such as installing new languages (which is required as the first non-obvious step). It’ll typically try to deceive you into installing fcitx5 with a dialog box like this:

but if you open up the details it’s fcitx5 which will cockblock CAP

However, when you try to perform the first step, if you already have fcitx (fcitx4) installed, adding new languages (required to get CAP) to work will come bundled with upgrades to fcitx5! It’d be super frustrating. So you can choose between the two paths

1) Concede to fcitx5 and downgrade to fcitx4

  • install the languages first (with fcitx5 IMEs),
  • remove fcitx5
  • install fcitx4

2) Prevent fcitx5 in the first place

  • remove fcitx4,
  • install the languages (no fcitx IMEs)
  • install fcitx4

Remove fcitx4

sudo apt purge fcitx

Remove fcitx5

sudo apt purge fcitx5*

Install languages

If you already have fcitx installed (path #1), you’ll have to click yes and live with fcitx4 being upgraded to fcitx5 which you’ll have to destroy it later and reinstall fcitx4.

If you already removed fcitx, Language Support will only install IME for other systems such as ibus associated with installed languages

Install fcitx4 AND activate it

sudo apt install fcitx

Remember to select the installed Fcitx 4 as your IME system (not ibus, etc, or none):

Now CAP is on the list of available IMEs in fcitx-configuration

Learn the new shortcut keys that are different from Windows

One default out of the box that’s hard to guess is moving from page to page. It used to be PageUp/PageDown but CAP follows fcitx’s global configuration moving between pages, which is the lower case of +/- keys which is basically =/- because + is upper case while it was intended to be lower case. I know, this is confusing!

IME switching follows the OLD windows shortcut keys (like Windows 98 and XP days), which

  • Ctrl+Space means turning IME on/off (global sense),
  • Ctrl+Shift changes IME languages (newer Windows use Alt+Shift by default)
  • Shift to temporarily disable/enable the IME (i.e. English mode) but stay within the language state

More customizations to get it closer to Windows IME behavior

CAP follows the global config settings in fcitx, unlike mozc (Japanese IME) which sometimes play by its own rules which behaves similar to its Windows’ counterpart.

If you are used to CPIME’s vertical lists, you can change it in ‘Appearance’ tab.

CAP candidate selection quirks when used with mozc (bug?)

For some reason, when both CAP and mozc are freshly installed, the first time you use the candidate list in mozc by selecting space/tab, the candidate list will disappear!

I installed and uninstalled fcitx, mozc and CAP and realized narrowed the bug to this reproducible path. My suspicion is that there’s a setting regarding the candidate selection shortcut (usually by ‘1’~’9’+’0′) parameter state that’s not exposed in fcitx-configuration that was being changed my mozc. And this guess puts me closer as I was able to play around with mozc’s config and found a candidate selection shortcut option

Note that mozc only has a max shortcut of 9 items (instead of 10, that means the ‘0’ key is not available as shortcut key) despite fcitx-configuration’s Global Config has a different idea (which CAP can use the 10th key, aka ‘0’ as candidate selection shortcut)

I noticed that after switching ‘1’-‘9’ to ‘a’-‘l’ (or no shortcut) mode, activate it in mozc by using space key to expand selection (this is necessary or the change won’t happen), I get the ‘1’-‘9’+’0’ candidate selection shortcut when I go back to CAP. I also noticed if I messed with the maximum number of suggestions in mozc a few times, I can get into an undefined state in CAP where it shows the candidate selection shortcut for the first few but not the rest, such as this:

I also noticed CAP has one consistent bug that the candidate selection (not just the keys) ONLY WORKS FOR THE FIRST PAGE! I tried to use the candidate selection shortcuts or click on the character with mouse for subsequent pages, it only commit the current word choice disregarding the selection!

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Taking screenshots in Ubuntu with Flameshot

I’m spoiled by Greeshot in Windows and I find the gnome-screenshot that came with Cinnamon lacking.

With Greenshot, Print Screen key by default selects an area (which should be the most versatile and productive mode which should be prioritized with least complicated keys) and prompts you on whether you want to copy to clipboard or save a file.

Gnome-screenshot went with the most traditional behavior where Print Screen keys captures the entire screen AND it saves to a default file in ~/Pictures folder with timestamped file names, which I don’t want (I prefer copying to the clipboard).

So natively in gnome, Ctrl is the modifier for copying to clipboard. Shift is the modifier for selecting a section of the screen. So the most common operation I want to do became a bit of finger gymnastics Ctrl+Shift+Print and there are no immediate access to image editor like Greenshot (don’t even bother with GIMP, it’s slow to load and convoluted).

I discovered a much neater app called Flameshot. It has a much quicker design that you can select a section of a screen and do the most common screenshot edits on the fly and copy to the clipboard or save to files, even faster than Greenshot, which opens the captured image into a separate editor and you have to click file->copy-to-clipboard after edits!

Turns out that Flameshot does not use the native gnome’s print screen categories,

so establishing the shortcut has to be done as just a simple shortcut for running the command:

/usr/bin/flameshot gui

and I chose to use Win/Super+Print for Flameshot

Again, the command is /usr/bin/flameshot gui (or where flameshot is located if it’s not under /usr/bin)

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Ubuntu cannot ping Windows hostnames out of the box (resolving NETBIOS announcements)

Out of the box, Ubuntu cannot resolve hostnames announced by Windows out of the box.

The internet had many solutions from ditching NETBIOS (winbind, wins) but it involves replacing systemd-resolved with the old NetworkManager (systemd-resolved was an extra level of indirection to break VPN ties), which I illustrated in this now deprecated blog post.

Having router assign host names you specify often included a local domain name (must not choose one that conflicts with the internet) such as local or lan. So the computers are accessed in the format of myPC.local or myPC.lan depending on the local domain name you picked. However, it doesn’t take advantage of the hostname announced by Windows computers.

I decided to give the NETBIOS service a second research today and found the missing link to the common solution of installing winbind and adding wins entry to host search order in /etc/nsswitch.conf (you can put it at the end or earlier if you want). I put it at the end as I wanted it to be the last resort

hosts:          files {a bunch of things depending on your system} wins 

Of course having a wins entry in the hosts search order involves installing winbind make sure the winbind service is running

sudo apt install winbind

The missing piece is editing /etc/samba/smb.conf to inject a name resolve order list after installing samba and winbind:

name resolve order = wins lmhosts bcast

You will need to install samba package first if you haven’t already installed it (for sharing folders with Windows)

sudo apt install samba

The post said the name resolve order section was commented out, but in newer version of samba, the line is simply non-existent. You’ll have to add it somewhere in /etc/samba/smb.conf, I chose to put it right at the beginning of [global] section.

Restart the services after editing to reflect the changes and you can start pinging!

sudo systemctl restart nmbd smbd winbind

So in the process above (installing samba and winbind and editing nsswitch.conf), you’ve also enabled linux to announce its hostname to Windows, which I’ve discussed in this blog post.

So to summarize the concepts,

  1. You need to install winbind to add wins to host search list in nsswitch.conf, but it doesn’t do you anything yet!
  2. Once you installed samba, your linux computer start announcing its hostname to Windows computers
  3. To be able to use the hostnames announced by Windows, i.e. the other direction, you’ll need to add the name resolve order line to smb.conf (samba config file) and restart samba and winbind.

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NTlite – Slipstream Windows 10 with Administrator Account only

Windows 10 setup, if not slipstreamed (or automated), will try to trick you into establishing a Microsoft account. If you dodged it (by disconnecting from internet and have it try to set up a local account), you are still required to set up an account OTHER than “Administrator” (built-in account) itself and the built-in administrator account is disabled out of the box. Microsoft consider administrator account (in Linux world, root) bad practices so they are eager to make it difficult for you to do it the old fashioned way (like in Windows 2000, NT 4 and before).

I was able to fight this with NTlite, but even NTlite does not account for all scenarios, and I’ve devised a little scripting to have it do exactly what I wanted (use built-in admin account and ask user to establish the password for it) out of the box.

In NTlite, to enable the built-in administrator account, you’ll have to click the “Add local account” button at the ribbon (menu) bar:

then check “Enable built-in Administrator using this account”. Here’s where I run into a bunch of dilemma because of the unspoken rules (implied behavior in NTLite by doing this):

  • If you enter a password for the account, NTLite will record it in your .xml file for the Presets which is littered in NTLite’s program folder. You don’t really want your administrator in plain text anywhere! This will also make the installation image non-generic that other people cannot benefit from it.
  • If you do not enter a password, it’ll be treated as a blank password, which in Windows 10, if you have an account with a blank password, the system will log you on automatically! It’s also dangerous to have a blank password for administrator by default, forget that you need to change the password and walk away with it!
  • If you do not ‘create’ the ‘Administrator’ account with the password, whether it’s blank of user-defined (which is weird because the built-in administrator account is already there, just disabled) with NTLite (and just activate it with net user administrator /active:yes in post-setup commands), Windows setup will force you to make a user account because you will have no active accounts available until AFTER setup (if you choose to enable the built-in admin account afterwards). This design choice makes sense because I’ve screwed up before without activating the built-in admin account at the end as a script and got locked out and had to use a recovery disk to enable the built-in admin account, but painful to those who know what they are doing!
  • Technically you can choose to suppress any prompts and risk screwing up the output image like I did locking myself out by having no active accounts in the slipstreamed configuration. This is done by enabling “SkipMachineOOBE”, however I choose to set it to false because I want automatic Windows update at the end:

With a blank built-in administrator password established above by NTLite, Windows will boot automatically into Administrator account without prompts for passwords. I’ve looked up many methods to force Windows to ask the user to establish the password during or right after installation, and here’s a few paths I explored that didn’t work

  • account password expiration: the number of days to expire is shared across all accounts
  • “User must change password at next login” do not have simple commands to change the property either with “net user” or “wmic”. Nearly every property can be controlled with “net user” or “wmic” except this one, which has to go through Powershell to access ‘PasswordExpired’ property (wmic and net user have things like whether the password CAN expire, not whether they expired already)

I also tried to put this password change command at the post-setup script

net user administrator *

(the * at the end means asking the user for input instead of exposing the password as part of the command), but it seems like Windows setup get stuck quietly waiting for the user interaction which did not pop up.

The final idea I came up with is to ask for the user to change the password on first login (which the system will automatically do with a blank password). I thought of using ‘RunOnce’ in registry but the problem is that when ‘RunOnce’ executes is not predictable.

So I chose to inject a cmd/batch script in the user Startup folder which self-destructs after the first run. But this is not as easy as one might think because NTlite do not allow you to inject arbitrary files. You can give scripts for NTlite to run, but not tell NTlite to inject a file to certain folders.

What I came up with is a CMD script that spits out another text file at the said startup folder, call it makeSelfDestructScript_promptChangeAdminPW.cmd and have put it in the post-setup queue in NTLite:

Here’s the script:

@echo off
SET outputBatchFile="%systemdrive%\Users\Administrator\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup\promptChangeAdminPW.cmd"
echo @echo off > %outputBatchFile%
echo net user administrator * >> %outputBatchFile%
echo pause >> %outputBatchFile%
echo del "%%~f0" >> %outputBatchFile%

A few concepts/techniques is involved to come up with the script above

  • %appdata% is not used because I don’t know if Windows PE is mounted to Administrator account already at this point. Since NTLite does not have the option to relocate the User or AppData folder, I always know that the folder is always at: %systemdrive%\Users\Administrator\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup\promptChangeAdminPW.cmd
    I took care to use %systemdrive% instead of C:\ because people could choose other drive letter to install Windows that coexists with other OS and the installed partition might not be always take the first drive letter.
  • There are techniques to have echo command interpret newlines, but so far it’s very messy and it makes the code unreadable. Instead I do one echo at a time except I use ‘append output redirection >>’ in subsequent lines.
  • I added a pause so that if you mistyped during confirm-password (which the change will fail), at least you get a chance to see the text response, which you can choose to abort the script and avoid the self-destruct or just let it self-destruct and press CTRL-ALT-DEL and change password later on your own without the CMD script.
  • %~f0 is the variable for the filename of the script itself, I have to escape the % character by %%.
  • Avoid misinterpreting spaces in filenames as delimiters with double quotes

The generated script promptChangeAdminPW.cmd at startup folder will look like this:

@echo off 
net user administrator * 
del "%~f0" 

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Getting Remote Desktop Server to work on Cinnamon Desktop

xrdp+xorg is a huge pain in the butt as it does not account for variations in systems properly (or automatically) so often it breaks out of the box.

First of all, if you are using cinnamon (including Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix, I suspect it is the same for Linux Mint too), you will run into this shit after successfully logging in:

login - "oh no something has gone wrong" after clean install of 19.10 LVM  and making changes - Ask Ubuntu

This is a GNOME session crash. The information on the web points to some other modes of failure in ArchLinux and the like. That’s not the reason. By going through my own notes on xrdp, I noticed the gut of /etc/xrdp/ is to call the executable script /etc/X11/Xsession:

test -x /etc/X11/Xsession && exec /etc/X11/Xsession
exec /bin/sh /etc/X11/Xsession

However /etc/X11/Xsession in term look plough through a bunch of scripts in /etc/X11/Xsession.d folder and one step was to look for the executable script ~/.xsession, which is not established by default! For some reason the Xsession scripts can figure out the local desktop environment but not when it’s launched through xrdp!

So the solution is to make an executable script ~/.xsession with just one call to cinnamon-session and that’s it!

I initially thought the call was just ‘cinnamon’ because the most popular answer in the Stack Exchange page suggested writing to ~/.Xclients but this redirection was now obsolete and they use ~/.xsession instead:

but when I did that, the desktop loads but there are no icon and the theme colors are way off. The answer was buried here in a comment in one of the answers:

If you want this behavior to be universal across all user (don’t have to establish the ~/.xsession for each user), and is ok with hard-coding to stick to Cinnamon desktop for everybody including local users (i.e. no redirection script to figure out based on context and conditional config files), you can just replace the last two lines of /etc/xrdp/, which calls /etc/X11/Xsession, with simply cinnamon-session.

Geeze! Why does every basic feature in Windows has to turn into a freaking research project in Linux. I’ve wasted so many hours compiling XRDP from scratch from the author’s webpage thinking it’d solve the problem because he had many tutorials for a lot of cases that xrdp breaks out of the box. Turns out they didn’t matter: it’s just that xrdp couldn’t figure out the right desktop environment so it crashed after loggint in through xorg!

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Linux WTF – KDE on Ubuntu and how to get rid of it.

I had quite a bit of trouble getting Cinnamon to work with xrdp (Remote Desktop Protocol for Linux) to work and was misguided to try out other Desktop environments such as KDE. I couldn’t be more displeased about how unfinished and poorly integrated KDE is.

Linux, no matter how good the programmers are with the core code with multiple people’s scrutiny, never had a proper QA team to take care of integration. Linux in 2022 is still like assembling a PC in the 1990s: I’d be super lucky if everything worked out at the first try after very careful planning and knowing every step of the way. There’s always something that just breaks out of the box for the most obvious use cases.

First I installed the ‘kde-full’ package, chose sddm, and rebooted to find out my 4k screen was covered by a giant freaking on screen keyboard:

Fedora 29 graphical login screen (sddm) displays only virtual keyboard -  Unix & Linux Stack Exchange

What the fuck? It’s trying to be smart-ass accommodating handheld devices yet it’s not smart enough to figure that it’s a desktop computer with a keyboard, so it ended up with shitty out of the box behavior that nobody wants under any circumstances!

After I clicked the bottom down keyboard icon to close to the damn on screen keyboard, it keeps popping up as I set the focus to the edit box to type my password so I have to close it again. Aargh!

Once I get into the plasma desktop, the window designed looked like BeOS so I think I cannot accept anything less than Cinnamon for now, so I wanted out. I thought just removing the same ‘kde-full’ package will put me back to where I was, but hell no! I’m still stuck with that ugly and confusing welcome screen and my software menu was cluttered with a boatload of KDE default apps that I do not want!

After a bit of digging around, I’m not the only one perplexed by this behavior. Turns out there’s a lot of clean up the uninstaller didn’t do! That’s why Windows has installer instead of package managers. One size does not fit it all. Installing something just to find out that uninstalling it immediately right after doesn’t put you back to where you were is deeply frustrating.

I adapted his tutorial uninstalling KDE with Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix:

# The desktop is still not removed even if you did "sudo apt remove kde-full"
sudo apt remove plasma-desktop --autoremove
# Default apps the came with KDE and plasma desktop are still there
sudo apt-get remove kde* --autoremove
sudo apt-get remove plasma* --autoremove
# This will give you a menu to pick the old splash screen (it's called plymouth)
sudo update-alternatives --config default.plymouth

# Reflect changes in early startup scripts (initramfas) and boot loader (grub)
sudo update-initramfs -u
sudo update-grub
# Stop and remove SDDM service to get back the old lockscreen
sudo systemctl disable sddm
# Note that you might be thrown out to text mode when you stop SDDM
# Switch to other virtual consoles (e.g. Ctrl+Alt+F2) and run startx to get to the GUI
sudo systemctl stop sddm
# Delete SDDM
sudo apt-get remove --auto-remove sddm
# Clean up SDDM
sudo apt-get purge --auto-remove sddm

# Message in SDDM removal suggests reconfiguring lightdm
# (lightdm is Cinnamon's default greeter)
# Don't need to systemctl enable/start, that's for GDM3
sudo dpkg-reconfigure lightdm

# Reboot

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