Help setting up a home network?

Hello to all :),

            I guess I am a bit of a newb, maybe an amature at a push, as I only know the basics. I'm wanting to set up a small network that includes 1 desktop, 1 laptop and an xbox 360. I've currently linked the desktop and laptop so I can view the external hard drive (which is connected to the desktop) on my laptop, so I have basic knowledge (not that it takes much as windows does it for ya:p).

I’m wanting to be able to control most things on the laptop, such as a torrent program and disk burning software, that are running on the desktop. Also be able to setup the network (forward ports?) so that downloads and online gaming can run at the same time. Also just the general setup/speed of the network and all computers connected so that everything runs optimum and I have some sort of control paradise :stuck_out_tongue:

Any advice or links to guides is much appreciated! :flower:

As you may tell I am a little anal when it comes down to it, and may have overlooked the simplest/effective methods. But thanks for the time and patience and any guidence offered :slight_smile: