I'm brand new to recording, so I apologize if this is a total noob question. Also I checked some of the stickies and searched but didn't see what I was looking for.

I've been trying to gain a general understanding of how to best setup my gear for recording. Is there a general rule of thumb to dial the knobs for instruments, mic, mixer and main for optimal recording? I'm not sure what exactly they all do, or where to set them. I was thinking middle of the road is probably best to start, but was hoping for a little insight about what to do.
Generally when recording to software it's best to avoid any pre-processing. the only thing you should worry about is mic preamp gain. The best way to do it is to give the mic enough gain that the signal level is healthy, but doesn't clip during the loudest parts of what you're recording.

After that, there are conventions but it's all about genre and preference, so just mess around! There's plenty of blogs that can give you pointers on EQs and compression settings, but they are just starting points. The more you practice, the more you'll understand it.