As for what you are missing? If you get hooked it will never end
The Firepod is a great way to start, It has has decent sounding pres. It has out out to headphones and to monitors. It come with Cubase LE, a really great way to start recording. Cubase LE has most of your basic effects like the ones mentioned above.
The real trick on the computer is to set it up correctly.
Here is a link to a document I got from the TASCAM web site. I don't know if it is posted there any more so I have it on my website. It will help you get your PC tweaked correctly for recording
I also recommend taking a class at your local Jr college if you can. It will help you immensely.
There are some great computer based training for Cubase out there.
Oh and this book will be your bible