> I started to wonder if Ruby's install
> scripts are state of the art, what could be done better and how.

clap, clap.
this is wonderfull: we need it.


> Basically, you create a file, setup.py

I can suggest you to look at scons (http://www.scons.org)


A great thing would be to replace: 
  - configure make and make install

As said on this mailing list to rake author you could:


work on a configure script template like configure.in.

and provide macro as ruby functions like:

? - Ac.init_automake("package", 1.0.1)


and Makefile.am that generate a Makefile.in and and a Makefile.rb

  - Am.subdirs(src)
  - Am.sources("package", [files])


This approach will led you to a great success, imo.




-- 
>here are more things in heaven and earth,
horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.