In this new post to the Ask About PHP blog they take a look at one of the basics of using PHP - fetching the data from a remote URL via the cURL extension.
In PHP, there are actually four ways to access a remote URL - fopen() fsockopen(), cURL extensions and HTTP_Request class from the PEAR library. Now, choosing one way over another really depends on your needs for simplicity, control, and portability. Generally, I prefer using cURL simply because it's easy to understand and it's really powerful.
You'll need to have cURL enabled to be able to follow along. The examples show how to fetch a single remote page, a protected remote page, sending a POST request and fetching the URL with custom headers.