The installation failed...

A tragedy in 3 parts:


Spent my dev time today fighting to upgrade a Windows VM. The quick version is that I was making an epic journey from old boot media all the way from Windows XP to Windows 10. All was well until the final leap from Windows 7 -> 10 when I was struck down with a dreaded:

The installation failed in the SAFE_OS phase with an error during BOOT operation

Turns out this is not an uncommon issue (based solely on the number of search results), but none of the common fixes like switching from a SATA controller to IDE worked for me.

The end fix was updating VirtualBox to the latest version, 5.1.26. I had been running 5.0. Perhaps not the most satisfying win, since it's still unclear what was causing the hang, but a win nonetheless.

XFA and Adobe

Now the reason I went through all of the above was because I needed to fill out and digitally sign a PDF with a smart card. Now usually I can do most all my smart card related activities on my usual machine (Debian stretch), but PDFs have stood out as a lingering failure that required me to use Windows.

Today I dug into why and learned about the XML Forms Architecture (XFA). This is a proprietary form specification that is used by Adobe PDFs to create fillable documents. Unfortunately when loading a PDF with XFA most viewers (including evince and chrome) will give you the dreaded:

Please wait… If this message is not eventually replaced by the proper contents of the document, your PDF viewer may not be able to display this type of document.

Turns out that Adobe is just about the only PDF reader with support. That is unfortunate to say the least.


Finally, I did get some redemption because I learned about PlayOnLinux. This is essentially a wrapper around the venerable wine which makes it point and click easy to get specific windows applications running on linux. They include Abode Reader DC and it Just Works™. This setup allowed my to at least view and fill out the PDF but left me hanging when it came time to sign using my smart card to sign.

So with that I conclude my tale, and the open question/missing link is how to use a smart card within wine. There is some indication that such a thing is possible, but that's for another day.

disclaimer: If you are diligently following along you might have noticed this wasn't written the next day, so I faithfully didn't count it towards my daily beeminder but still had cool stuff to document