Once I had a similar dilemma: I wanted to have read/write access to a folder on a windows machine (2003 server, but Vista shouldn't be too different) from my Sabayon workstation. This is how I did it (maybe it will solve at least part of your problem):
First, I went to the Windows machine and shared the folder I wanted to access from Linux (with read and write permissions of course, as I needed). Then, on my Linux machine I just mounted that folder, using something like:
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mount.cifs //192.168.100.2/shared_folder /mnt/my_local_folder/ --user=user1 --pass=pass1
You run this command as root, after you make sure that you have a folder "/mnt/my_local_folder" on your hard drive (it is not necessary to put in /mnt; you can use any location you like, like your home folder; just make sure that the user you want to access it with has the rights to view the content of that folder - use chown to change the ownership of a folder and chmod for rights - more on the respective man pages).
As you might have guessed, the 100.2 machine is running windows, and it has a user called "user1" with password "pass1", and the folder in question was shared as "shared_folder". To share a Windows folder, just see the "Sharing" tab (or something similar, I don't really remember) in the folder's property window.
As I usually keep my workstation running (it also has some sort of source control server running on it), I didn't look too much into this, but I'm sure it's not too hard to put it in fstab so it will be mounted automatically at each boot (see the fstab page on Wikipedia - I usually go there whenever I need to clarify some stuff about fstab syntax).
As for sharing a folder on Linux so that other Windows machines will see it on your network, I never bumped into this problem (yet) so I can't really help you there.
PS: if you share the folders in windows, the other windows machines will be able to "see" each other's shared folders, so no problem there.