Well, on the Ion specifically:
Copy From (I use it in programming a lot, for instance: [Group] 12 [Copy From] [Cue] 7) It saves a lot of time when dealing with moving lights as well, Channel 102 [Beam] [Copy From] Channel 101)
Trace (Tracking backwards on the Ion)
It's very common practice. My lighting plots are an artistic request, I don't want the master electrician to hang it and have a line set fall on the stage or a fire to start and it come back to being my responsibility.
All of my light plots say:
This drawing represents visual concepts only...
In New York I'm about to rent a few Mac 2000 Performances for $210 a week and a few VL2500 Spots for $175 a week.
This was the low-bid, by the way. The other rental houses I talked to were asking for significantly more.
Thats it. I made myself a fancier one with an LED that lit up when it got signal, but if you just want a basic terminator to terminate your DMX, thats all there is to it. $3 and maybe 5 minutes of time.
You should be able to boot it with the DMX cable plugged in. If there is a floppy in it, take the floppy out. Give ETC a call on Monday, they'll be able to talk you through troubleshooting the problem.
Show DMX is probably the best system in my opinion and experience. Multiple channels, it frequency hops around to find you the best space. I used it in a crowded city across a street that busses were driving in front of with no ill effects. You get what you pay for though, looks like it would be...
That depends on what kind of lighting console you have, but if you dig up the manual it should tell you what MIDI notes will correspond to what function. (We need more specifics about your console to help you much beyond that, for instance the make and model of it.)
Oh, and if your going to be in charge of cue tracking or follow spot tracking, and have a laptop, I'd set up an excel document to walk in with so your not wasting time at the tech table making the document.