graeme_p - 9:14 am on May 10, 2010 (gmt 0)
A bit late to join this discussion, but a few things strike me.
1) Did you install xampp from repos, or the download from the xampp site? Its always better to install from repos but I do not know if any distros have xampp in the repos.
2) Ubuntu has a meta package for installing a LAMP stack in one gp. Mandriva has a GUI for installation and BASIC configuration of Apache and some other popular server stuff (ftp etc.). Even without that installing from a repo is relatively easy, and there are lots of set up guides for all the popular distros.
3) There are desktop GUIs for starting and stopping processes, but these vary from distro to distro. Most distros have something (e.g. in Mandriva its in the Mandriva Control Centre).
4) There is a command line app that gives you a sort of pseudo GUI for starting and stopping processes, but I cannot remember what it is called. More secure than webmin for a remote server as you only need to keep the ssh port open.
5) You can also run GUI apps (from 3) over ssh if you have them installed on the server.