Introduction

“Ruby on Rails? What's that?” asks my uncle. “You write about this stuff for dummies? You mean those black and yellow books that everyone buys?”

“Yes, like the one I'm quoting you in,” I say. “Please check your spelling as you speak.”

“I will. But what's Ruby on Rails? Is it the 6:05 train to Poughkeepsie? Is it the name of an old vaudeville act? Is it a pop singer? A rock band? Is it a rare stone from India? Is it the codename of an informer in a political scandal?”

“No.”

“Is it the name of an exotic cocktail? A species of bird? An animal act in a circus? A John D. MacDonald title?”

Finally, I interrupt. “Ruby on Rails is a computer thing.”

“What kind of computer thing?” he asks.

“It's a framework for creating applications with Web interfaces to databases.”

“Oh, yeah?” he says. “Your nephew from Brooklyn, he read Getting Ahead in Politics For Dummies. He loved the book. Did you write that one?”

How to Use This Book

As a computer book author, I strive not to be full of myself. I have no illusions that you plan on reading this book from cover to cover. I read sections and chapters out of order when I buy a computer book. Why would I expect you to approach my book any differently? And even if I read something in Chapter 2, who says I remember it when I read Chapter 11?

I write each section with these thoughts in mind. In the middle of Chapter 12, I might want you to remember some nugget of knowledge that I introduce in Chapter 4. If I use that nugget over and over again in Chapters ...

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