Trouble in GNU: an opportunity for improving?

I have posted a note about the way FSF (America) started acting like a dictator with the GNU project and the software maintained under its umbrella, which lead to the splitting of GnuTLS — which is something that Nikos is not currently commenting on, simply because he’s now negotiating what’s going to happen with it.

Well, the next step has been Paolo stepping down as GNU maintainer, after releasing a new version of sed. This actually made me think a bit more. What’s going on with sed, grep and the like? Well, most likely they’ll get a new maintainer and they’ll keep going that way. But should we see this as an opportunity? You probably remember that some time ago I suggested we could be less GNU — or at least, less reliant on GNU.

So while I’m definitely not going to fork sed myself ­– I have enough trouble with unpaper especially considering that while in America I didn’t have a scanner, which is a necessity to develop it – but there definitely is room for improvement with it. First of all, it would be a good choice to start with, to get rid of the damn gnulib and eventually implementing what is an extension of glibc itself as an external library (something like libgsupc). Even if this didn’t work on anything but FreeBSD and Linux, it would still be an improvement, and I’m pretty sure it would be feasible without needing that hairy mess of code that, in the source code for sed takes five times as much as the sed sources themselves — 200KiB are the sources for the program, 1.1MiB is the gnulib copies.

Having a new, much less political project to oversee the development of core system utilities would also most likely consolidate some projects that are currently being developed outside of GNU altogether, or simply don’t fit with their scope because they are Linux-specific, which would probably make for a better final user experience. Plus things like keeping man pages actually up to date instead of relying on the info manuals, would almost certainly help!

So can any of you think of other ways to improve the GNU utilities by breaking out of GNU’s boundaries (which is what Nikos and Paolo seem to be striving for), maybe it is possible to get something that is better for everybody and Free at the same time. Myself I know I need to spend some time to fix the dependency upon readline that is present in GnuTLS just for the utilities..