Switching to OpenSource

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http://unix.stackexchange.com – I'm switching from Apple to either a Linux or Unix Open Source OS. It's been a long time since I've used either OS. I last worked with SGI Irix, RedHat and Fedora. I'm not sure which Open Source OS that I'll be switching to yet, but I'm leaning towards Ubuntu. My external hard drive is formated for Apple. I tried pulling up my external in Windows and it wouldn't eve recognize the thing. Let's say that I switch to Ubuntu, will Ubuntu recognize/access my external hard drive? If not, how can I get Ubuntu to recognize/access it so that I can copy my important files over? (HowTos)