I recently bought an external DVD drive which I am rather pleased with.
It is an LG super multi thingy which means it can read and write all DVD formats including the DVD-RAM that our DVD recorder used with the TV uses. It also has both Firewire and USB connections.
The initial results are great. I am using it with my Sony Vaio, that has a base station with dvd in it but it has been somewhat unreliable. The new drive has come with much better software for playing DVD’s on windows. I can now connect an external monitor as an extended monitor, and have a dvd play full screen on that while I "work" on the laptop screen.
I am now using the external dvd drive to try to install Mandrake 10.2RC1 onto the vaio, so far all installations have failed before the end when using the base station drive due to the firewire connection. To get this to work I have to boot off the base station cd or floppy and then continue the installation from the external drive connected via USB. Will update later on whether this all works.