I have a Snow iMac G3 800MHz, with both OS9.2.2 and OS10.1.5 on it, and for jollies, I put 10.3 on my external firewire hard drive, and just boot off the external drive. I wanted to see how well that works, and it works wonderfully. (it is up to 10.3.7 right now)
Anyway, this is my question: I’ve been itching to buy an external firewire DVD drive, to play movies or anything else a DVD drive can be used for. I’ve tried to figure out if this is possible, and whether I would run into problems concerning encoding or decoding movies, software vs hardware decoding, which external DVD drives have the decoding ability built in, and… I’m not sure what else to think.
So I was wondering what your thoughts are and how to tell if external DVD drives have hardware decoding built into them, or if I could just buy any ol’ external DVD drive as long as I had the proper software.
Here’s the good news: as far as I am aware, you should have zero problems hooking up an external DVD drive to watch movies, etc. For a computer, a DVD is just a big datastream, and we know that Mac OS X already has a great DVD player application, DVD Player, that knows how to read that data.
Frankly, if that doesn’t work, I have found that VLC Media Player does a great job with just about any video material you give it, from DivX to QT streams to DVDs. Even better, VLC is open source and free, so its worth downloading and trying even if just as an experiment!
The biggest problem I can envision you having with the external DVD drive is when you try to burn DVDs of your own. I don’t know which external drive you’re considering but I do recall that Mac OS X has in the past had some complaints about writing to external (or even non-Apple internal) DVD burners.
If that’s a problem, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Roxio’s great application Toast Titanium (about $60 at Amazon) would let you sidestep that problem. And DVD disks make excellent backup devices, by the way!
So the long and short of it is that you should have no problems with an external DVD drive hooked up to your Snow iMac. Definitely, definitely, though, you want to get one that connects through Firewire, not USB: your system doesn’t have Firewire 800 or USB 2.0, so Firewire 400 is your fastest option.
Good luck and let us know what movie you watch first!