Get a router. Turn on file and printer sharing on both machines.
My labtop running Windows XP is connected directly to the desktop running Windows Vista Home using a cable. In each case the home office network was set up using its own version of Network Setup Wizard. Each of them uses the same Workgroup name, "MSHOME". Also,the systems are configured to share files. Whereas, the desktop is able to access the labtop, the opposite way is not possible. Any help is much appreciated.