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"The distinction is rather academic with ruby and rails."

No, it isn't.

"90% of the answers to "how do I do this in ruby" on forums are actually "how to do this with rails" answers"

You're looking in the wrong places.

"who'd ever write a ruby program without rails, right?"

People who are writing shell scripts? People who are using Sinatra? People who are writing desktop Ruby programs?

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