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You might want to learn PHP first, especially if you're new to programming. Not only is PHP easy to learn, but it is also useful for quickly testing out simpler webpages.

By learning PHP, you'll also learn how web programming is traditionally done and the basics of how the web works. Once finished, you'll clearly see how Rails makes certain aspects of web programming easier, even for things like form validation.

I recommend a book like "PHP 6 and MySQL 5" which is very easy to read, and definitely type in the examples! http://www.amazon.com/PHP-MySQL-Dynamic-Web-Sites/dp/0321525....

Over and over and over, I've made this same recommendation when someone is new to the art and is banging on the Rails train: Do PHP first.

You have nothing to lose learning PHP. I love Rails, but I use PHP in a pinch. Hell, even DHH said he fired up PHP recently and liked how quickly he could wire up small bits.

Rails is too magical and mystical. If you don't understand the lifecycle of web requests, you are going to be shafted really quickly when Rails starts its magic tricks.

I am reluctant to do PHP because of time contraints. I am working on this stuff after work, and at some point I would like to actually be able to build something. Anything. When someone says do PHP, my visceral reaction is no.

However, if the experts here think that PHP would be a worthwhile detour even though I plan to go with Rails, then I'll go with that. I guess I'd just like some assurance that I can pick up the basics this way and that I can do so in a reasonable amount of time.

Yes, I know patience is a virtue, but I just want to make sure that my time is spent as productively as possible. I do very much appreciate the advice from everyone.

I actually learned Rails after knowing PHP, and I felt that my knowledge of web fundamentals (generally, how web sites are built and architected) was greatly enhanced by my PHP knowledge. It also gives you an appreciation of what Rails makes easy!

If you're familiar with a C-based programming language, then PHP will be very fast to pick up. And, if you want to "actually be able to build something," with PHP you'll absolutely at least feel like you can haha.

Well, you'll probably need to add 'server administration' to your list of things to learn, since by going with Rails you'll probably need your own VPS and have to manage all of your mongrel servers and make sure they stay running. They tend to use a lot of memory.

Why not do "Ruby sans Rails" instead? You can keep the Ruby experience, but get all of the lower-level request/response experience you like.

Ruby is a good language for CGI programming.

That's a really good question and one that I had as well. The main problem for me up until now is finding info on web programming that does not mention Rails.

PHP can allow you to be very sloppy, I'm not sure I would recommend it. Although you do need some way of learning in-depth MySQL, rails makes it too easy, and you probably won't be using Rails forever...

Sloppy is a function of the guy at the keyboard. I've seen beautiful PHP source and shitty Ruby.

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