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I have a federated location via OpenSearch 1.0/1.1 that I want to search programmatically. Can I programmatically make my own search box where I can post the search word as a variable and a date variable from a eg. jQuery datepicker and process the data to my federated location?

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Yes you can use SearchServiceApplicationProxy and QueryManager

SearchServiceApplicationProxy proxy = (SearchServiceApplicationProxy)SearchServiceApplicationProxy.GetProxy
(SPServiceContext.GetContext(SPContext.Current.Site));
LocationConfiguration[] locationConfigs;
LocationConfiguration locationConfig = null;
locationConfigs = proxy.GetLocationConfigurations(out lastupdate, out crawl);
Location location;
LocationList locationList = new LocationList();
QueryManager queryManager = new QueryManager();
foreach (LocationConfiguration locConfig in locationConfigs)
{
    if (locConfig.InternalName.Equals("LocalSearchIndex"))
    {
         locationConfig = locConfig;
         break;
    }
}
location = new Location(locationConfig.InternalName, proxy);
location.UserQuery = queryText;
locationList.Add(location);
queryManager.Add(locationList);
queryManager.IsTriggered(locationList);
XmlDocument xDoc = queryManager.GetResults(locationList);
DataSet resultSet = new DataSet();
resultSet.ReadXml(new XmlNodeReader(xDoc));

Check this msdn

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