> Essentially, I need something along the lines of "command &" from unix
> for windows.  Any ideas?
>

Perl's "system" function has an undocumented feature that allows you to
call:

system(1, "command");

And the command is run "detached" - in a separate process. Under the
hood, the Win32 CreateProcess function is used. Maybe Ruby's "system"
borrowed the feature ?

Also, Perl's Win32::Process module allows to do it more directly. It
also calls CreateProcess under the hood, and you need to provide the
CREATE_NEW_PROCESS_GROUP flag to it in order to "detach". Perhaps
Ruby's equivalent module can be used.

Sorry for the Perl-talk, I'm still not too proficient with Ruby
libraries. Hope this helps, though