atom's suggestion to stop all disk operations was the key to fixing
this. I had a ddrescue operation going on in the background that I
stopped after reading this thread, and BAM it started moving up from 37%
and eventually finished.

Basically, this issue affected me as well on Ubuntu 14.04 x64, when
trying to update my nvidia drivers from graphics-drivers ppa. I did
'sudo apt install nvidia-384' and it was stuck at 37% saying 'update-
initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-3.13.0-144-generic' for 20+
minutes. At that point I went to /boot/ and saw that a
'' was sitting around with a 0 file
size since 20 minutes ago. Something was stuck but I didn't know until
reading this issue.

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  update-initramfs hangs on upgrade, dpkg unusable, unbootable system

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