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Indeed, it goes further. We believe there is significant information buried in the spatial data, but we don't even know the right questions to ask. So we want to data mine it. We can't do that unless we can position Thirsk relative to Fownhope.

Spatial data type stores position but if that was all it did, we wouldn't bother. After all, anyone can create two number columns, two text columns and store:

Latitude N/S Longitude E/W
51.07805 N 1.48518 W

So in that sense, we've been able to store the spatial data for years. What is new is that the spatial data type comes with a raft of functions that allow the data to be manipulated. In fact it's really the functions that are the killer feature, not the data type itself.

There are at least two first jobs involved in starting this project.

The first is to find a server certified to run Windows Server 2008. How can a server be certified to run an operating system that is not yet complete and may be subject to change? No manufacturer wants to give that assurance six months before an operating system launches. On the other hand, we all know that Microsoft and the hardware vendors do work very, very closely together during this phase.

In addition, new versions of operating systems cannot afford to push the hardware boundaries too far. Dell was happy to supply us with a development server , and it should arrive within the next couple of days.

The next first job is, of course, to convert the data from text to spatial, which we can do before the server arrives. But then job zero appeared because it turned out that we first had to decide exactly what latitude and longitude system to use. (What? You didn't imagine there was just one did you?)

According to those who study geodetics - the measurement and representation of the earth - our planet is an oblate spheroid, or slightly squashed sphere.

Over the years, various attempts have been made to describe our spheroid accurately and overlay a system of latitude and longitude upon it so we can all tell where we are. We considered using the latitude and longitude coordinate system used by the Ordnance Survey maps, the delightfully ethereal-sounding Airey spheroid of 1830 (tweaked in 1936 and known as OSGB36 for short).

Presently most of our locations are in the UK, but locations worldwide will eventually figure in our application, so we opted instead for the World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS84), which is in widespread use and implemented by most GPS applications.

So we are now in a position to state that King's Somborne in Hampshire is to be found at Latitude 51.07805 N and Longitude 1.48518 W.

The next question is how do we convert over 12 thousand location items - by hand?®

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