I'll add my 2 cents. Ask 5 homebrewers a question and you'll get 7 answers. For the most part no one is right and no one is wrong, there's just different levels of experience and conviction ( and budgets ).
In the end we all just want to make good beer and most debates should just be left at that.
Right off the bat I'll invite criticism and advise you to jump right into all grain. It's not harder. It doesn't take longer. It's more fun. It tastes better.
Above all else: stay sanitized. First step of brew day should be fill a large pot and fill it with sanitizer and water. Dunk everything you use into this pot before you put it anywhere near your beer. Without sanitation there is no good beer. Never take shortcuts with sanitation. The minute you tell yourself "it probably won't hurt if ... " the infections have already won. Sanitation just becomes second nature and it's not a big deal at all once you get your process down.
First equipment purchase: you're never going to be happy with your equipment. There's always some other trinket to add on or swap out. My advice is to start with one of the basic kits and not start dumping money into it until you have actually brewed a couple batches. Then you'll discover what sucks about working with your system and you can improve upon it. If you hate brewing you can always CL your stuff for probably 75% what you bought it for.
First batches: stay simple. Very simple. My first or second batch was something like a Cherry Chocolate Stout that mandated cherry puree. It was bad and got me off on the wrong foot. Just about any of the $20 or $25 recipe kits from Northern Brewer are going to be *excellent* introductory batches:
Your first couple batches, no matter which path you take ( all grain vs extract ), you're going to be mentally overwhelmed by the process and trying to remember everything you've ever heard or read. Keep it simple: you're making flavored water. Heat up water, add grains, water pulls sugar from the grains, boil the water, add hops, add yeast to convert sugar to alcohol, drink.
A couple specifics that work for me ... the complete opposite can and does work for many others:
Use plastic fermenters rather than glass. Glass can explode, freeze, crack. These are awesome: http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewin...-6-gallon.html
Buy starsan rather than any of the powdered sanitizers. It's practically idiot proof. As mentioned above, fill a large pot with water, add an ounce of starsan and you have your sanitizing bucket for the entire day.
If you're going to buy something, buy excess capacity. You're going to start with 5g batches, buy a 6g fermenter ( linked above ). If you don't already have a boil kettle, buy larger than 20qt ( 5g ). If you're going to spend any money, it's not going to cost much more to buy the next size up.
Read, *a lot*. But take it one step at a time. http://www.homebrewtalk.com/
Before brew day visualize the entire process. If you can't visualize every step, read your instructions again or read online until you can see everything. YouTube has some great stuff as well.
Homebrewing has a great community. No one will ever *not* answer your question even tho there's nothing new under the sun. PM me if you want to ask anything, but this beginners forum has answered every question 50 times already and they'll answer each 50 more times: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/
Sounds cliche but above all else, have fun, you're making beer. I take quite a bit of pride when my neighbors hand me their pint glass and ask for another. It's a great hobby.