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Should Perl scripts really have no extension?
FWIW, in Windows, if you create a perl script without an extension and put it in a CPAN distribution, that script will be installed on your system as a .bat file so that you can still call it without an extension.
What is an effective way to familiarize yourself with a new application in a new language?
Since you already know PHP, I would suggest the Cookbook to learn common idioms in perl. I also found helpful the tutorials, function reference, and FAQs in the perldoc.