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I'm in the process of ripping my very large dvd collection to video_ts folders on my file server computer. Right now I have an Alu Powerbook I keep close to my TV that I can hook up through hdmi with analog audio through the headphone port, since my 'book doesn't have optical audio output. Now I need to have it hooked up to my receiver through digital coax so I can play those dvd rips and pass the surround sound to the receiver, but I cannot find any way to do that.


If that doesn't work I am considering an Intel Mac Mini since it has the optical out which I can convert to coax, but that seems like such a waste of money for a remote dvd player when I have a perfectly good computer sitting right here (I've already considered the AppleTV).
 

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You have to go M-Audio USB or firewire, your cheapest option would probably be an M-Audio Transit, which is USB to optical. Buy it from someplace local, like a MicroCenter, so you can return it. I used a Firewire Solo for this first with my 12" Powerbook, then a G4 mini, and still use it (in a back bedroom) for 5.1 digital audio over coax with a dual 1.25 MDD PowerMac.

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I am considering an Intel Mac Mini since it has the optical out which I can convert to coax, but that seems like such a waste of money for a remote dvd player when I have a perfectly good computer sitting right here (I've already considered the AppleTV)

well, a couple of issues here--the main one being while a G4 PB will do iTunes wonderfully well, it won't do a good job playing back dvds, even if you solve the 5.1/DTS surround passthrough--because it's not powerful enough CPU-wise to take advantage of the significantly improved Apple dvd player app in Leopard. If you're still on Tiger, then you'll have no problem doing this--Apple dvd player will be poor AND you can count on the M-Audio drivers for Tiger actually working in terms of 5.1 passthrough. If you're on Leopard, and do decide to go ahead with the Powerbook, double-check the driver status at the M-Audio site for whatever device you're considering: some of their Leopard drivers were still beta--with the 5.1/DTS passthrough from dvdplayer.app disabled.


Weigh the device cost, diminished dvd playback and potential frustration and it just may be a used Intel mini or Macbook is the better long term decision: no third party driver issues, no USB or firewire port taken up, gain optical built-in, the Apple remote and much improved dvd playback.
 
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