|What I want to be able to do is control the desktop from the laptop and be able to use the media that is there without having to transfer the files to the laptop,|
Remote Desktop Connection
You can find it in:
Start >> Programs >> Accessories >> Communications
I would recommend you read up on using it. There's plenty of info available on the web if you google it.
would also like to be able to use this media from work or anywhere outside the home network.
You would have to forward port 3389 (RDC port) on your router and point the forward at the IP address of the PC on your LAN you want to connect with.
You would need to know the external (internet) IP address of your network. You can find that out by going to the "What's my IP" website while on one of your home PC's. It's worth noting that, if you have your IP assigned by DHCP (from your provider) it can change.
The overall goal is to be able to hide the desktop comp away as just a box(no monitor, just a printer attached to network print to, no keyboard or mouse). Should I set the desktop up as a webserver,ftp server, server 2008.
You could easily do this with XP Pro. Basically, all you want is a PC to store files on and this will do the trick quite nicely.