There's a great post at creativebits today listing some basic troubleshooting techniques. I like it because it lists some simple tasks that anyone can perform. Some of the tried-and-true techniques include:
Quitting unused apps
Re-installing a misbehaving app
Back when I was a part of an IT team, we always checked the simplest solution first. Printer isn't recognized? Is it plugged in? How about turned on? You may laugh, but ruling out the easy answers makes things clearer and it often solves the problem. There are many more tips at creativebits so read the whole post.
It's true that the Mac OS still has its problems, but least we've moved beyond the Extension Conflict Hell that plagued many pre-OS X users. Or my other favorite, The Chooser. "That port is in use ...."