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I think in you're case its better to keep with the Express edition. You could have it on you're notebook everywhere, It's not so heavy and doesn't requires a lot of space, but you still have all the Oracle database behaviour.
Regarding the Apex URL you should put one /apex/ at the end of the URL and then login with admin and password you've entered during installation.
Regarding the error this means that the database is in progress of shutting down. Open command prompt and run adrci (Automatic Diagnostic Repository Command Interface), then type show alert and then select the number 1 (should be something like diag/rdbms/xe/XE). Once the new windows opens up scroll to the bottom and you'll see the last event which occurred in the database.
Either way you could try restarting you're computer and then start the service when it boots up.
Pl identify OS details - and confirm it is one of the supported ones listed in the Install Guides - http://download.oracle.com/docs/cd/E17781_01/index.htm