I just did the re-install hoop and i still use the book for reference. One problem I have found with xampp 1.7.3 is that the php.ini file is only located in the xampp/apache/php directory only. In referring to the book, page 40 enabling cURL support in PHP, you need to be able to modify a the file php.ini located in the xampp/apache/bin/ directory. The file will not be there If not, you will get an error on install regarding cURL.
The solution I did was to copy the php.ini file to the xampp/apache/bin/ directory and edit the file as the book states. I have no idea if coping this file to that directory on the xampp vers. 1.7.3 will cause any problems somewhere else, I suspect one with the zencart add-on FCKeditor, but can not say for sure yet, if ever, but it solves the cURL error you will get without it. The older vers. of xampp did not create this situation.
Anyway, hope this helps