Although most of XP's impenetrable dialog boxes still lurk just below the surface, Vista's Network and Sharing Center provides genuinely useful information at a glance while furnishing links to your most important network tasks and tools.
Choose Start, Settings, Control Panel (or just Start, Control Panel), Network and Sharing Center (in Categories view, click Network and Internet first). At the top of the window is a diagram of your network connection, indicating any faulty links. Below that are your network and 'Sharing and Discovery' settings. The latter show your file, printer, and other sharing settings in quick summary format, with buttons on the right for expanding and explaining each.