i recently found the need to grab the latitude,longitude values for some unique place names. i didn't find anything from the major services:
- google places is closed right now, so have to join a waiting list
- foursquare api, google maps api, and simplegeo api all require a starting latitude and longitude
the easy hack to the starting point is to choose an arbitrary starting point and set a large radius. the problem is that all of the services i tried have an implicit restriction on how high you can set the radius. none of them will let you run a search for "stanford university" starting in kansas and looking at a 1,500 mile radius (1,500 is slightly over half the total diameter of the united states, starting from the "geographical center of the united states" which is in lebanon, kansas).
so i ended up finding a solution with geokit, which was my last guess because it hasn't seen an update in over a year from its github repo.
of course, if you are using this in a large script and need to check whether it worked or not:
note: if you're hosting your rails app on heroku, your lat, long columns must be type decimal. mysql will allow lat,long colums as strings, postresql requires a decimal. mysql is also not case-sensitive on record searches, while postgresql is. these were kind of annoying when testing in production.