Hi I dont know much about the linking the lights up side but I do know quite a bit about the software and the virtual shows. I use Daslight Virtual Controller (DVC) and Sunlite 2006 (SL)
Daslight it real simple to use and easy to programme chases aswell as use the pre made chases. You have full control of moving heads, scanners, par cans (par 36,56,64), strobes and . Well everything really... It has a massive selection of lights - It has just about every good make and model and you can download the whole file online with all the latest lights on. With DVC you can programme the main keys on the keyboard to switch a effect on or off.
Sunlite 2006 is a bit more complicated that DVC the effects side is really good and the lighting and the stage/ venue virtual design is the same as DVC. Now here is where it gets complicated. The control side of SL is really good and has alsorts of sequences, sound to light, moving head control etc. The only bad thing is unlike DVC where you can click on a box (this can also be a hotkey) with say par 56's on (e.g. scene1) you can put another lighting scene over the top without switching it off. But on SL you can only have one scene on at a time but when you make a new scene you dont have to start a fresh it copys the fader positions amd DMX levels (which can be changed)
I think the interfaces range from about £135 ++ to £400 then you hit the pro interfaces and the price is
I suggest you download the software below. With DVC you can only buy DVC2, I think, with the interface and download DVC1 but a fairly recent version