Where to start?

Hello!! I have been interested in learning RoR since I was first
introduced in 2006. Although my career tends to limit free time for
programming, I have recently set a goal to teach myself RoR, or at
least the basics, by the end of the year. I set out to find some
instructional books so I can still learn when I can't be in front of
the computer.

I discovered the O'Reilly series of books and thought it would be a
great start. I first read Learning Ruby by Michael Fitzgerald. At this
particular time I couldn't be near my home or computer, but I was so
excited that I read the whole book anyways. My intention was to set a
foundation of knowledge BEFORE going back to the beginning and trying
the examples a few days later.

When I finally got home to try out some magic, not much seemed to
work. I went back to the book and tried a few examples (the ones I
remembered wanting to try the first time I read through) and that
didn't work either. Very confused, I set about to figure out where I
went wrong.

I think my problems seems to be that the books were written for older
versions of Ruby/Rails. I really didn't expect that the platform had
changed much, but it appears I could be very wrong. It was
discouraging to know that I may have wasted my time and money on these
books, and for awhile, made me reconsider wanting to learn more.

To sum it all up, I would like to get some opinions of those who know
more about this:
Is it important to learn about previous versions, or should I just
find the latest, greatest book on the market?
Where do most people (new to the scene) learn what they need to get
started?
Should I trash those old books, or could they be worthy reference?
Should I even continue reading them?
Did RoR really change that much in two years (since these books were
printed)?

I know it's a lot to ask, but I really need some encouragement to get
back on the right path. I would absolutely love to become a member,
AND contributor, to the RoR community. Thanks for reading and I hope
to read your opinions soon.
-JKnowlage

Rails has been changing pretty rapidly, certainly. Back in 2006 it was
at version 1.1 or thereabouts and we're now at 2.3, well on the way to
3.0 (and 3.0 will introduce some big changes). A lot of books have
found keeping up pretty tough. The 3rd edition of agile web
development with rails is pretty good and covers rails 2.2, with
online errata covering the differences between 2.2 and 2.3 (which
aren't that big). Also worth reading are the guides on
guides.rubyonrails.org. Ruby itself has been through some interesting
changes, with a stable version of ruby 1.9 finally emerging this year.

Fred