Alternatives for automake/autoconf? What about alternatives for makefiles?
I've read over the page and most of the comments, and many points seem relatively valid. It should be noted that maybe 95% of the world population that has access to computers are "lazy idiots" in terms of reading docs and programming and such. This is probably what drew them to computers in the first place - since typing is so much easier and more convienent than writing and talking.
At the same time as people are saying that developers should learn how to use automake/autoconf and learn to check spelling errors and read thousands, if not millions of pages, of assorted, cryptic, and ocassionally incomplete or inaccurate "documentation", software developers are trying to get as many developers to join their teams and use their programs. I believe this is kind of ironic.
You look at the people who write HTML, and yes, it is markup, not programming. But there are similar cases everywhere. Look at things like Basic, Logo, and Turning, and you find that the english-like syntax makes it very close to not-programming. Java and C++, by this thinking, aren't that far behind, either.
Personally, I've been using linux for maybe 3 years as a 14 year old child, and I've never heard of m4. At the same time, I've learned the rudimentries of Java and C++, and don't seem to have many problems with them. As for compiling programs, I find that while most programs work, starting autoconf/automake projects is very cumblesome for the inexprienced (like everything else in the Linux world). In that kind of an environment, it doesn't seem uncommon to have to redo things 5 or 10 times. You have to be really patient.
In terms of the portability issues, it's obvious that people will use old programs and operating systems. Upgrading to a newer version or switching operating systems takes time and/or money, and is rather inconvienent. That kind of thinking isn't uncommon, especially among adults.
It's said that autogenerated makefiles and configure scripts are rather cryptic, and therefore hard to edit. It seems to me that there are also issues with the variants. Wouldn't it make sense to look at all the bugs, history, and features of makefiles, and then create something simple, machine-producable, close to english (or some other common "language", like C++, Java, Perl, Python, or Turing) and easy to parse, and make a replacement for make and makefiles and create versions for all the OSes out there (e.g. Solaris, Unix, Linux, Windows 3.1, Windows 9x, Windows NT, Windows XP, HP-AX, 64-bit OSes, whatever comes out in the future) and redub them something else?
Instead of ./configure, maybe we should have a ./installme script, and instead of Makefile we should have a Make2src or something in our programs. Of course, if we did this, we'd still include configure scripts and makefiles with our pcs. And any new tools would have to be really small (e.g. under 1-2 MB, preferably under 512 kb) before people would use it if they have any bandwidth concerns (e.g. dial-up users, DSL users that have transfer limits).
Just my two (well, rather twenty) cents.