I came to ACL this year much like you. I have a number of BigW strings that I've linked up using a DMX36 from Alan. There are cheaper dimmers available from China (referred to as Ray 27ch on the forum). Alan's have fuses and are very easy to package with a power supply. You will need a DMX dongle or a bridge to make them talk to your PC. You will need some sequencing software. I use Vixen 3 which works very well for me and would be cheap at twice the price (its a free download)
If you think time is running out before Xmas the BigW strings are good because you can hook up several strings of 200 so they all work together rather than blinking out of sync. BigW say three strings but I have run five without any problems. AND when you get around to cutting them up for a sequenced display its pretty easy because they are in sections of 10 lamps per channel, cut where there are three wires. I've been cutting up other strings - hassles.
When you get C.L.A.P. is when you get some pixels.