Can someone make a sticky for Arduino Newbs?

I am a hardware guy. I know about Atmels and processors with flash. Arduino seems like a prototyping platform. I just want to do some cool stuff with tri-color LEDs for now. My cousin is a C++ programmer. He needs a fast ADC. I don't know anything about this Arduino, let alone which version to buy. I have searched the forums and got registered on freenode irc. No one seems to be chatting on irc though I see several people logged in.

Where can a newb get some basic info about the different versions and just basic, general info about this Arduino?

Maybe it's on the website and I am just too ignorant to find it. Not usually the case with me though. Else, why go through the trouble of registering on freenode irc and this forum to get that info?

Did you see the main web site (http://www.arduino.cc ) and just not find what you were looking for, or did you assume that was part of the forums?

For hardware-knowedgeable folk, the Arduino is just an ATmega breakout board with USB connectivity, a power supply, and some standardized (but oddly spaced) connectors that let it pair up with a bunch of fairly convenient peripheral boards. The AVR has a bootloader and can load software over the USB/serial port with no additional programmer required, and that code is then run natively on the AVR. "It's a sort of standard piece of hardware with add-ons to make it easier for those SW guys to use."

For software folks, the Arduino provides a C and C++ true compiler, along with a simplified IDE and set of library functions designed to ease the transition from normal computing to "physical" computing. You can start programming the arduino with code that looks relatively familiar and obvious, without having to dig into a 400 page datasheet explaining how the specific microcontroller works internally. "It a pretty standard collection of software with some tweaks to make it easier for those hardware guys to use."

This is a good reference as a start kit: http://www.adafruit.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=170

This kit includes (besides an Arduino Duemilanove) several circuit sheets to be placed directly over the breadboard, after that all you have to do is follow the tutorial and insert the components (also included, breadboard/components).

The circuits are REALLY basic (one of them is about controlling a tri-color led), but there's a lot of usefull theory, and tips on diferent aplications that could be implemented with each of the main components.

The good thing: you can download the circuit sheets with complete tutorials without buying the kit (check the same link). Complementary videos for the tutorials can be found on youtube.