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Of course, I started by teaching myself BASIC and then assembler back in the '80s, so I had some familiarity with the logic of coding. That interest actually started with the book "Godel, Escher, Bach" which was an introduction to artificial intelligence.
Computer languages are like any language. There is some degree of rote learning needed to memorize the vocabulary, syntax and logic, and then there is the need to freely practice dialogue, which for a programming language is writing code.
Oh, and remember, computers are really dumb beasts. They will do exactly what they are told to do...sometimes over and over and over. It was rather frustrating in the old days when one would watch their machine freeze up and not have a clue as to what was going on inside :o
I had to learn HOW to learn all over again. In college we read text books and listened to lectures. That doesn't cut it in our profession. There are some text books but they are only a beginners introduction. The real learning comes when you begin to write and troubleshoot your own code.
Then and only then will you be forced to seek answers and do online research to find the answers you need. Be prepared for the education to take as long as an undergraduate degree. The basics will come easy but the meat of the learning can take years. It only comes with experience and isn't taught by any school I know.
Re: sites to learn PHP.
and hundreds of others (search for PHP tutorials on your favorite SE)
I never set out to learn php, I had a form that needed a mailer and I got one in php. I needed to change it and understood what it was doing. I then knew it was crummy so I made a new one.
My next project happened to be a complex cloaking script (long ago). Talk about a rude awakening, trial by fire. You just keep working at it. Each project presents new challenges and more opportunities for learning new things.
Just put php.net in your bookmarks and then familiarize yourself with the site so you know how to navigate it and you're off to the races.
It was only when you realised that largely and within very broad parameters, they all did the same thing. That you could start to try and decide which you wanted to learn. Only then did you start to realise that the type of server had an infuence plus what the ISP had installed on the server etc. After that and similar started to drop into place were you suddenly up and running.
There's no substitute for a good book, you can take that to bed with you, read on the train etc plus much easy to flip back and forwards than on a screen. Books
PHP for the World Wide Web: Visual QuickStart Guide
MySQL: Visual Quickstart Guide are worth looking at.
Browsing PHP.net [php.net]'s tutorials and function definitions is great, especially with the addition of user comments.
It's a GREAT book. It teaches by having you actually create the kinds of things you will actually use php for on the sites you build -- even teaching you how to build a shopping cart. So folks who like to learn by actually working on something useful will find this book is great for them. Just work through the book chapter by chapter.
Just make sure you get the latest edition if you can (second edition I think), as it will deal with a slightly more up to date version of php.
I also did this then realised I shoudl have read up right from the start.
Start reading righ from the start, then try and write a simple script from what you have learned from each section.
This book gave me a good start:
PHP and MySQL Web Development
by Luke Welling, Laura Thomson
Luke Welling actually taught me PHP at RMIT University. This book is a good reference item (although a little out dated now with PHP 4.3 out and about and MySQL 4 getting more of a look in)
I just took a course in Web Database Applications and it positively rocked. The text book for the subject was Web Database Applications with PHP & MySQL by Hugh E. Williams, David Lane (Oddly enough Hugh Williams was the lecturer for this course as well). This book is more the type of book that you can read from cover to cover, with tonnes of great code examples). Because it is O'Reilly - it is expensive, but I reckon it is well worth the cash.