glbryan, in all fairness to Elizabeth, it was me who suggested xampp as an alternative.
The complaint had been how much time was being wasted in attempting to solve installation problems. Open Source solutions in general were being attacked as if not ready for primetime. I suggested that the true strength of open source was multiple sources for solutions as MySQL is very much center stage in primetime.
Elizabeth's suggestion was not xampp (although she agreed as good alternate solution) Her suggestion was go to MySQL's web site to try and resolve your confusion. If you find her answers unclear why not try one of the countless HowTo Sites. No one book will ever have all your answers. Can not hold an author liable for revision changes in software created by the multitudes. Any teacher can at best show you how to approach a problem.
I found http://www.php-mysql-tutorial.com/index.php
to be easy to follow
Personally I found it easy to setup with MySQL 4.0 on my Winbox