I recently wanted to connect my laptop running Linux Mint 12 Debian edition with my desktop machine running Linux Mint 13 Maya with a crossover cable, the desktop machine has two network cards, one connected to the Ethernet modem and one that I connected my crossover cable to. Then I clicked the Network icon on the laptop and clicked connect for the Eth0 connection and it was successful using DHCP. I was able to ping each machine at each end of the connection and it went without a hitch. Modern Linux distributions make tasks like this very easy indeed. If you had an old Pentium or even a 486 machine, you could install 3 or 4 network cards in it using all of the PCI slots and then that machine would be able to act as a router. If you install the Smoothwall Linux distribution that is specifically designed to act as a dedicated firewall, you would be able to secure your home network.
There is a good series of forum postings here: http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r14159970-Turning-old-computer-into-router- that detail the process of building a computer to act as a router. You would not want to use a powerful Pentium 4 3.6 Gigahertz machine if all you are using it for is routing network packets. This is a good use for any old machines that you dig up from the basement or attic. So if you find an old network card that you had laying around, you can put it into your modern desktop machine to complement your existing network adapter and connect your laptop easily. Or even another desktop machine to play LAN games of Doom3. But getting back to the router, the OpenBSD UNIX operating system: http://www.openbsd.org/ is another choice, but not as easy to configure as Smoothwall. Smoothwall has a web interface that makes administering the router easy. There is a nice tutorial on setting up a Smoothwall installation here: http://www.skullbox.net/smoothwall.php.
My Network topology is different to what you might be using on your network, but this goes to show that computers are getting very easy to use these days. I can not believe that the Windows Server 2012 operating system has the Metro interface, it is following in the steps of Windows 8. Sure I am writing about Windows 8 in the past tense when it has not been officially released yet, but it is out in the form of release candidates and they have been mercilessly dissected by the Dark Eldar and their secrets revealed under extreme torture. The new replacement for the start button is not the same thing, but in Windows 7 and 8 you may simply press the Windows key and type notepad and hit ENTER and the application is opened. I wish Windows had the neat Compiz feature though, where you can just press the Print Screen key and a screenshot of the whole desktop is saved straight to the disk. With Windows you have to press Print Screen then open Paint and click paste and crop to save a proper screenshot. That should be fixed in the latest Windows builds I would hope. But maybe not.