One thing that helped me see the big picture with the QS was a good patch editor. The one that comes with the QS (Unisyn) is pretty bad. I use a shareware editor called QSEdit.
( It lays things out very nicely.

When you say programming cards do you mean burning memory cards. I don't have any advice there as I haven't done that.

As far as a cable, are you trying to go through the serial port?