First draft of application to Sovereign Tech Fund

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Hello Autoconf,
hello Automake!

As promised yesterday, I wrote a first draft of an application to the German Sovereign Tech Fund for Direct Contributions to both Autoconf & Automake. Please review and comment. I would like to submit this next week. Who needs to approve these (and any later versions) texts?


Draft of applications (questions are with > at the left of the line):

> I acknowledge:
> All code and documentation to be supported must be licensed such
> that it may be freely reusable, changeable and redistributable

> Project title

Autoconf & Automake Direct Contribution 2024

> Link to project website

> Link to project repository

> Where is your open source technology project being used (describe
> all user bases)?

GNU Autoconf and GNU Automake are part of the GNU Autotools, also known as the GNU Build System. The help making source code packages portable to many Unix-like systems. They are used by GNU GCC, LibreOffice, and OpenJDK.

> Why do you consider your open source technology project to be
> relevant and critical?

Many projects still rely on Autoconf and Automake as crucial part of their build system. Moving to alternatives is challenging. Without a working build system, users might not be able to build the software using the build system.

> How does your open source technology benefit the public interest?

A build system is like water or electricity, it is supposed to work and nobody thinks about it. Once it service is disrupted we are realizing how much our everyday life is depending on it. Many users never get in touch with Autoconf and Automake. The programmers and packagers are doing everything for them relying on the build systems effectiveness.

> Please describe the history and state of development of your open
> source technology

Autoconf is an extensible package of M4 macros that produce shell scripts to automatically configure software source code packages. These scripts can adapt the packages to many kinds of UNIX-like systems without manual user intervention. Autoconf creates a configuration script for a package from a template file that lists the operating system features that the package can use, in the form of M4 macro calls. The project started in the early 1991 and was one of the dominating build systems for UNIX and Linux. Automake add the generation of input files for Autoconf and dependency tracking. It goes back to the mid 90s.

Autoconf and to a lower extend Automake became very popular in the 2000s. Since then many projects switch to more modern build system. Also the number of contributors fell and reached a critical limit. Still, numerous project rely on them.

> Which BRP services are you interested in?

Direct Contributions

>Describe why your project needs those services?

Autoconf and Automake suffer from few contributors, infrequent releases, and dependency to others projects in a similar shape like GNU M4, GNU libtool, GNU flex, GNU Make. On the other hand C and C++ are evolving and the compilers are changing the way they treat old code.

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