XAMPP is a great package to have for complete newbies in order to learn PHP-based website development. In one simple installation you can lay down the Apache Web Server, MySQL, PHP, Perl, phpMyAdmin etc. (an impressive list).
This blog, more than anything, is a narration of how one developer went and wrapped his head around what all XAMPP has to offer. If this helps you "ramp-up" as well ... then great!
1) What's a good place to install XAMPP?
As a rule of thumb, always choose a path without spaces and keep it short and simple, for example: C:\apps\xampp\ would be a good location.
2) After an install what should my directory structure look like for easy access?
Trust me on this, you never ever want a structure such as C:\apps\xampp\xampp\ ... why you ask? Because it annoys me. In my opinion, the following default layout of XAMPP is ideal:
3) I know that Apache (part of the XAMPP bundle) uses the httpd.conf file to control what's hosted and what isn't. Then why can I not find any mention of apps such as phpMyAdmin in this file, even though I can clearly see them hosted at locations such as http://localhost/phpmyadmin/ etc.?
Technology or at least technology done well ... is all about making your product/components intuitive. A closer look at the httpd.conf file reveals some interesting information:
It becomes clearer that not all the information needs to be seated in the httpd.conf file, rather there are other files that have been laid down as part of the XAMPP installation which contain useful configuration information. In this case, we find that a file named httpd-xampp.conf has what we are looking for.
4) What's a good place to start tinkering?
Well I found the following article by Dalibor Dvorski to be extremely helpful, so I would suggest starting there.
5) What's the author of this article currently looking to master about XAMPP?
I'm aiming to tryout the following article next, in order to see if I can add a lilttle something extra to my knowledge of XAMPP.