Advice on Setting Up A Laptop-Based Audio System?

Hey, I'm looking to set up a workspace audio system based around my Apple Powerbook G4. I've got about 100 GB of uncompressed audio on an external hard drive. I currently have Monsoon planar speakers and matching subwoofer hooked into the laptop through the 1/8" audio out, which soundsokay, but I think I could do better.

I don't have a PC card slot in the Powerbook, so I'm limited to a USB audio connection. I'm not looking to hook this system up to my "big rig" -- it's just for my workspace. I was looking to bypass getting an amplifier, unless it's fairly small.

I was thinking of going with some powered mini-monitors and maybe some kind of adapter/DAC in between, but I'm space-constrained and not looking to spend more than say, $600 total.

Any suggestions?
Gonglee3 - ASIO4ALL is only for S/W drivers that do not accept an ASIO plug-in. Drivers that can accept the plug-in should use ASIO plug-in, not ASIO4ALL. I have heard that ASIO4ALL is actually an ASIO emulator using Kernel streaming.
I'm surprised no one has mentioned SlimServer It works through a LAN. You can go with either WiFi or hard wired, or a mix. I've been using a Squeezebox for a couple of years. For a DAC I feed it into a Behringer SRC2496, which I bought based on very good user reviews and the fact that it has well regarded jitter reduction capability. And it is cheap. The two pieces together are about $400. Or you can get the Transporter, which has an "audiophile" DAC built in ($2000).

I may try a high end DAC, but for now I really don't have any complaints.

You can control either setup from the computer using the SlimServer software or with a remote control.

I prefer the laptop sitting next to my listening position. I control everything and create and arrange playlists as the fancy strikes me. This is what I have been wanting to do for years. But dedicated servers are way overpriced, have undersized HDDs and are inflexible. The laptop and lossless compression is the solution in my opinion.

The whole package is designed around open source. There are countless plugins, add-ons and hardware tweaks available. The forums on the website are extensive.

The software works well. I've lost count of how many media players I have tried. Once you get use to it, Slimserver is as good as any I have used. Far easier to use and more flexible than most. If you've ever felt imprisoned by the straightjacket called iTunes, you'll love slimserver.

It will never be as stable as a dedicated piece of equipment - it's a computer and software. What can you expect? But it works great when it works, which is nearly all the time. I have found that it works better on IE than Mozilla.

I rip using EAC and do lossless compression. It sounds great. In theory it should sound as good or better than a dedicated CD player. The reality seems to match the theory, at least to my ears.

I have over 5000 tunes stored on an external HD. All of them available at my fingertips.
Regalmal: I am just now exploring the viability of laptop control and storage for a music library. Can you explain to me in simple terms what equipment is necessary. So far I have a good HP Laptop that I have sent in to have the HD cleared off and anything else not necessary to managing my system. It will be a dedicated PC. I use a Krell HTS 7.1 pre/pro that has an RS 232 Communication Port for computer use and Krell amps all-around to drive Maggies all around. There seems to be a ton of info on line and herein but I cannot clearly see just what exactly is needed in the way of other equipment. Obviously I would need an external storage unit but that is all I really know. You seem to have it working pretty well. Puerto
A SqueezeBox or Transporter if you are reasonably computer savvy. If you aren't then you might try a DAC with a USB input. DAC1 seems to be pretty popular. Connect the USB on your computer directly to the DAC. WinAmp seems to be pretty good player for this purpose. I use EAC for ripping. DBpoweramp for editing rips is my favorite. They are both free, though DBpoweramp makes you buy an MP3 license if you are going to be creating MP3 files for your MP3 player. It is well worth it. I couldn't find another program that allows you to edit metafiles (data displayed by the media player, artist, genre etc) and batch convert files to other codecs any where near as well as this one. Plus they seem to provide very good support. That is a rarity among free programs.

I have both FLAC and MP3. FLAC for home and MP3 for portable players.
Many Thanks Regalmal! I presume that the DAC then, in turn, is plugged directly into my pre/pro with a USB to RS 232 cable. Does the Squeeze Box and Transporter perform the same function as the DAC? Puerto