Good news: Google buying Freebase
I have lately been waist deep in using Freebase for customer work.
While there is a lot of cruft data in Freebase, with some manual effort and some automation, it is a good source of a wide variety of information. Depending on application, DBpedia and GeoNames are other good resources for structured data.
I have a fair amount of example code for Freebase, DBpedia, and GeoNames in my latest book (there is a free PDF download on my open content web page, or you can buy a copy at Lulu.com).