Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hearing God: How to Believe the Bible Stories

I recently started reading Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God by Dallas Willard. I learned about the book from the Ransomed Heart Ministries recommended reading list. (Ransomed Heart was co-founded by John Eldredge.) And, since I have enjoyed Eldredge's books and I desire to hear God, I bought the book and so far have enjoyed the first two chapters.

One section in particular stuck out to me, How to Believe the Bible Stories. It begins:

If we are really to understand the Bible record, we must enter into our study of it on the assumption that the experiences recorded there are basically of the same type as ours would have been if we had been there... Unless this comes home to us, the things that happened to the people in the Bible will remain unreal to us. We will not genuinely be able to believe the Bible or find its contents to be real, because it will have no experiential substance for us (p. 35, emphasis mine).
This is good. We need to believe that God is both still working today and wants to work in my life and your life. Willard goes on:
The other problem that arises when we do not understand the experiences of biblical characters in terms of our own experience is that we simply stop reading the Bible altogether. Or else we take it in regular doses, choking it down like medicine because someone told us that it would be good for us—though we really do not find it to be so (p. 36).
Oh...

I sometimes (er, often) feel like the reason I read the Bible is more because I'm supposed to than because I want to. Sometimes it really ministers to me, but sometimes it can seem pretty dry. Kinda like medicine. But, didn't someone say the Bible is supposed to be alive? Isn't it supposed speak to whatever situation we're in?

Give me a good story and I'm enthralled. Especially if I haven't read it or seen it before. And, when I first began following Christ, the Bible was a whole new world. But after reading it for a while, it doesn't always hold my attention quite like before. Plus, it's not written the same as the Chronicles of Narnia or the Lord of the Rings. So, what to do? How does the Bible again become like an engaging story? How does it speak to my situation? Here is Willard's conclusion:
If we are to hear God's voice ourselves and on an individual basis, we must above all else observe how his word came to those people described in the Scriptures. How did they experience God's communication? What was it like for them to hear God? We must prayerfully but boldly use our God-given imaginations as we read the stories of people who encountered God. We must ask ourselves what it would be like if we were Moses standing by the bush... We must pray for the faith and for the experiences that would enable us to believe that such things could happen to us. Only then will we be able to recognize, accept and dwell in them when they come (p. 36, emphasis mine).
We have to use our imagination when we read the Bible? Oh yeah. I've heard that before, but needed this reminder. Sparking our imagination is what makes a good story engaging. Reading the Bible doesn't always spark our imagination automatically. So sometimes we have to do a little work to imagine ourselves as a part of the story, asking the Holy Spirit for help. Or imagine the story for our situation. And that's when God can make the Bible alive, relevant and engaging to us. And we can ask God what He wants to show us. Cool.

I'll be trying this out, in hope that it will add some spark to my Bible reading and walk with God. Hopefully this helps someone else out there, too. I'm trying to resist reading through Hearing God as quickly as possible like I tend to do with good books. I'll try to share some more tidbits as I find them.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cal Band - Video Game Show 2007

The Cal marching band recently paid tribute to some video game classics with their halftime show during the Cal vs Washington State football game on November 3, 2007. Just one of the many reasons why I love my Cal Bears! Too bad I wasn't there to see it ... but thanks to those who recorded and posted this video on the internet. See if you can catch all the video game references.



Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Quote from Meet the Robinsons

A cool quote from the end of Meet the Robinsons:

Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long.
We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious... and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
- Walt Disney

Saturday, October 20, 2007

devLink Technical Conference - Day Two

devLink Technical Conference
Last Saturday was the second day of devLink. It was another great day, in which I mostly heard about TDD (Test Driven Development) and Enterprise/Web 2.0. I met someone from my church who was one of the session speakers. And, I was one number away from winning an XBox 360 (darn, so close).

My morning began with another session by Gregory Beamer called TDD and Refactoring: The Wonder Twins of Development. It was a great session that was very practical - I will definitely need to review my notes and the slides. Unfortunately we still have a lot of classic ASP which doesn’t have the level of tools as .NET, but I think these principles are helpful – even just the Code Smells section.

Bob Sullivan sharing his background
I switched over to the Java track for the next couple sessions, led by Irv Salisbury and Bob Sullivan of directThought. The first was Enterprise Web 2.0. It was a good overview of their experiences developing a web 2.0 app for a large enterprise. There were some useful nuggets, though some of the details weren’t very relevant for my work – the lessons learned slides were helpful. They used Dojo as their JavaScript framework, and I heard some others mention it at this conference as well. After the first session, I met Bob Sullivan, who used to go to the same church as me until he moved recently. After lunch, I went to Bob’s session on Google Tools & APIs. He presented a nice overview of using some of Google’s public tools & APIs on our own sites & projects. Google definitely has some cool stuff.

Michael Neel demonstrating a plastic samurai sword
Next, I went to Michael Neel’s presentation on Zen and the Art of Website Maintenance. He had a cool introduction that included props. He and a volunteer illustrated the differences between a (plastic) broadsword and samurai sword, and explained what makes samurai swords superior. In addition to their curved design to allow it to slice without having to pull back, it is made with a combination of a strong, soft core and hard but brittle outer steel to keep a sharp edge. He compared that to developing a maintainable web app in ASP.NET. This session was very specific to ASP.NET, but was useful, and the sword illustration was the best part.

Finally, Ron Jacobs spoke at the closing keynote. After highlighting his ARCast.tv show (with a hilarious clip on transactions in real life), he presented on The Perfect Pattern Storm, where TDD meets UX and MVP. Is that enough acronyms for ya? It was a great session, both for more thoughts on Test Driven Development and an introduction to the Model, View, Presenter pattern (similar to MVC) to create a great User eXperience. It all looks and sounds cool, but he did caution the audience to evaluate MVP and see if it makes sense before blindly using it.

In summary, devLink was a great conference and a great deal. The conference got me hyped, but it was a long week and I was super tired afterward - thus the delayed blog post. I definitely want to go to more tech conferences in the future. And, I should probably get more involved with a local user group. Thanks to all the volunteers, speakers and sponsors for making this conference possible!

I want to start applying some of the techniques at work, but working mostly in classic ASP makes it a bit challenging, though I’m sure some things are possible. Hmm, migrating to ASP.NET sounds appealing – except for all the manual testing that would have to be done in the process.

Friday, October 12, 2007

devLink Technical Conference - Day One

Today was the first day of the 2007 devLINK Technical Conference for developers being held in Nashville, Tennessee. I'd have to say that it was a really cool day. Some practical things, but also a lot about the latest and greatest which was cool but probably won't be using day-to-day quite yet.

It started with a bang with Brad Abrams demonstrating Microsoft's new technologies (particularly Silverlight tied to .NET) to provide really cool user experiences and especially the integrated tools they have created to integrate cutting-edge design with .NET development. He particularly highlighted cross-platform functionality, including Safari on a Mac and integrating with a PHP app. The videos and demos were really cool.

I attended a session by Rocky Lhotka, creator of CSLA.NET, on .NET 3.0 which was a great overview and eye opening regarding XAML and WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation - Microsoft's cool new graphics platform). He also mentioned that Silverlight is basically WPF-lite. He also gave me a suggestion about how to provide client-side validation for a web application while keeping validation rules in the business layer by using the GetRulesForProperty() method to get all the rules and writing a bit of JavaScript to handle each rule type.

After lunch, I also attended two sessions by Rob Howard on ASP.NET (on performance and internals). It was great for better understanding ASP.NET and some practical tips and concepts. The performance session was great, but I crashed a bit during his second session (I was very tired).

My final session was by Greg Beamer on SOA (Service Oriented Architecture). It was a good overview of SOA and with a cool example of where it would be very useful (updating client info between multiple applications in an enterprise). On a personal note, before I found MindTouch Deki Wiki a couple days ago, I didn't think SOA would have any current practical benefits for our organization, but I'm rethinking that. FYI MindTouch created some helpful video overviews on SODA, REST, etc.

The day ended with comedian Rik Roberts who was hilarious and clean. Two XBOX 360's were given away today. Unfortunately I didn't win one, and regretfully I could've had a 1 in 7 chance at one had I previously blogged about devLink. But they're giving away more stuff tomorrow and I did win an iTunes gift card before the conference :-). The fact that this conference is in town and only $50 is awesome. Thanks sponsors! It's actually my first professional tech conference. It has a Microsoft .NET focus, but there is a Java track and more generalized sessions, too. Anyways, I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I may have found the perfect wiki

This is a follow-up to my last post about trying to find the perfect corporate wiki. I think I may have found it. I was researching and researching and none of the open source options seemed to be what I wanted.

  • Confluence would have already been one the one if cost weren't a barrier.
  • TWiki seems to have everything except that it is ugly and unappealing.
  • DokuWiki has no WYSIWYG editor and limited functionality of some other features.
  • MediaWiki has poor page permissions.
  • Trac is okay as a wiki but some features are limited (lots of features are plugins rather than core functionality). No LDAP authentication with our current setup, and it's a bit tedious to setup each project which is independent from the others.
  • Socialtext has most features but it's open source offering seems to have poor documentation and installation.
  • MoinMoin lacks page commenting, has minimal attachment handling and is ugly.
  • TikiWiki appears to have no tagging. Actually, looking again, it does seem pretty nice, though - I didn't look too closely.
So, I'm picky. Some of the above have all the features, but are ugly or hard to use (see my spreadsheet). Then, earlier yesterday I stumbled upon XWiki. I should have seen it before, since it's listed on the Wikipedia entry on corporate wiki's, but for some reason I missed it. It's pretty sweet, looks pretty good, has WYSIWYG and all the features and some nice dynamic HTML. It would work pretty well, I think. But, as I researched, I couldn't find any recent articles about it or anything. Mysterious. They've been around a few years and even participated in Google Summer of Code 2007, but the lack of recent press scares me.

Then last night I found it. The one. MindTouch's Deki Wiki. I mean, I've just barely tested it. But I tried their site (which runs on it), I read the reviews (which are recent and rave about it). It has all the features, it looks nice, seems user friendly, it's growing (some claim it to be the fastest growing wiki), it's under active development, etc. It's not perfect, but it may be as close as we'll get (especially for the price).

It is a bit different from a traditional wiki since it is more hierarchical than most, but does it well and still has tags (and links and search, of course). Permissions are currently a bit limited, but should be good enough for us until they finish implementing group-based page/section permissions.

And more, it's very extensible, including a state-of-the-art API that allows it to integrate with lots of other stuff (to create mashups in geek terminology). Also, one of the download options is a VMware image. Sounds like a good reason to finally test drive the whole virtual server thing.

Looks like the co-founders of MindTouch, the creators of Deki Wiki, are a couple of ex-Microsoftees. Contrary to popular opinion, looks like Microsoft people know how to do some things really well after all (even if they're no longer at MS).

There are some good hosted wiki's too, but I didn't really spend much time researching them since they usually cost money. BrainKeeper looks good and is feature-rich. Everyone said JotSpot was nice, but we're still waiting for Google to rerelease it.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

In search of the perfect wiki

A few weeks ago I went to a dinner with a few church IT folks where we discussed several things. One thing that was mentioned was using a wiki for internal documentation. And I've been racking my brain about that ever since. I mean, it's not a revolutionary idea. We are already using Trac for some project management and minimal wiki, and I've looked into DokuWiki a bit.

Ever since the dinner, I've been on a quest to find the perfect wiki solution. There are several choices and they all have their ups and downs. The problem, is, I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist (a maximizer according to StrengthsFinder). So I don't just want any old thing that will get by, especially if it will mean converting to a different one in a year.

I want tagging (emergent categorization), user friendly (WYSIWYG editor, clean interface, easy to use tools), access control (so sensitive docs can be protected), discussion/commenting, good version control, good attachment handling, LDAP authentication (so users don't need to remember yet another username & password), mature, runs on Windows, preferably free/open source, extensible/customizable, etc. TWiki sounds intriguing, I may just have to try it, but it doesn't appear to have the cleanest interface - seems a bit clunky. MediaWiki is the most popular, but appears weak in ACL and some enterprise features. Some of the non-free and hosted options look appealing - but a wiki isn't exactly in our budget.

So, why a wiki? Because it's cool, and everyone else is doing it? Well, sort of. More like it does certain things a lot better than a file share. Accessible from any web browser, better searching, better linking, better collaboration, more flexible categorization, anyone can edit and version control are the main benefits. My thought is that we'll start with IT, then get other departments to start using it, and perhaps allow our field staff to use it as well (like best practices for campus ministry, etc.).

I love tagging and linking so much more than limited hierarchical folder structures. So much information falls into multiple categories and relates to other things, both of which current file systems don't handle well. Hierarchies aren't evil, but limiting a file to a single category under several levels of folders is not the best solution. Also, allowing anyone to edit (when appropriate) means so many more people can provide input, while version control allows easy undo.

I recently discussed some of my wiki research with my office manager who is tired of all his e-mail and is looking into better solutions for task/project management (something more user friendly than Trac, more like Basecamp).

I will keep researching wikis and let you know what we decide. I would love to hear which wiki you are using within your organization and about your experience.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Our office got struck by lightning

Crazy - our office got struck by lightning friday night. The building's electrical got fried and power will be out till wed or later (5+ days total). Fortunately our servers were protected by our UPS, but our battery backup only lasts minutes, not days. So no email, intranet, online giving or phones. And the office is closed mon & tues.

Lots of drama in the meantime trying to notify people and redirect the intranet and figure out what to do. (FYI for Every Nation staff there are updates at http://twitter.com/enmstaffnews.)

My comcast has been down all day which hasn't helped. At least I have internet on my treo. And, a coworker is flying home to be with family. So, if you could pray for our office situation and our staff we'd really appreciate it.

I think Jim Caviezel got struck by lightning while they were filming The Passion. I'm sure God will use this situation for good somehow.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Carpe Diem - Thoughts on Dead Poets Society

I recently watched Dead Poets Society for the first time. I loved this movie, and it touches on some of the issues I've recently thought or blogged about, including manhood, our education system and stepping out, and it made me think about a poem my friend Eric recently posted.

I think our education system has a tendency toward lecturing and regurgitating, without enough dialogue and learning to think on our own. Often teachers teach what the curriculum says and expect students to respond with what the textbook says. There are exceptions, but the norm is conformity. And so often we as a people have a tendency to conform, to trivially accept what we hear and do what everyone else is doing.

The teacher, Keating, challenges his students to be free thinkers and non-conformists. His first lesson is "carpe diem" (sieze the day), and talks about how most of their predecessors believed they were "destined for great things" (sound familiar?) but they waited too long. Keating also quoted Thoreau, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation," then stated, "Don't be resigned to that. Break out!"

I want to break out! ...not lead a life of quiet desperation.

But, life is a balance. On the one hand, so many people do what they're "supposed to" or what everyone else does or what they need to survive but never live out their dreams. Some may have let their dreams die or lost hope in them, but we need dreams. Dream big, trust God and take steps toward that dream (baby steps are often the best way to start).

On the other hand, there is so much sin because people let their desires control them. I do not want to live my life always waiting and never experiencing my dreams. But I also want to follow, obey and trust God. I believe He wants us to be truly alive to the desires He's placed inside us (sometimes that means waiting and sometimes stepping out), yet not to succomb to sin. And often living our dreams means sacrifice and hard work.

We can't just do what we want and disobey God, parents, the law or our bank accounts and not expect consequences. Neil's situation in the movie was very difficult, but he could have avoided tragedy by waiting rather than overtly disobeying his father. And sin and tragedy happen so often due to a lack of wisdom. But, too often I feel like I and others are leading lives of "quiet desperation." Waiting, waiting, waiting and missing opportunities. There have been moments, but I want more. I do not want to live a life of complacency. I want to be passionate for God and life, to step out, do great things, and live my dreams.

I love my friend, Eric's recent poem, Dare Me to Move. There are a couple parts which I really love:

Awaken my dreams
Oh, Lover of souls
Let love haunt in the night
Let passion set sail
And purpose steer true
...
If failure it be,
Then failing I'll try.

Let me not idly stand by;

Let me not idly stand by.

PS I could go on with how these thoughts relate to needing to trust in God, finding our fulfillment in His presence and the patient faith of Abraham, but I'll save that for another blog.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thoughts on Blood Diamond

I just watched Blood Diamond for the first time last night. It's an intense and moving film. The senseless violence funded by diamonds is horrible. The rebel soldiers (RUF) attacked multiple villages. Why? Maybe just to capture a few slaves, maybe to inspire fear and eliminate some opposition, but I'm not totally sure. But, even the government soldiers did not hesitate to shoot civilians who got between them and the RUF in one battle.

The movie definitely hits on the issue of boys becoming men, which I discussed in a recent blog. After the rebels kidnap some boys, they quickly indoctrinate them into becoming violent child soldiers, an obvious case of boys becoming men too quickly. In this case, Solomon was helpless to save his son until he found him again. Yet, in America, teenage sex, underage drunkenness, drugs and gangs are a huge issue which needs addressing. Children grow up too soon on their own while parents often either avoid the issue or try to keep their kids as children for too long. It is not a simple issue, and I'm not a parent so I don't propose to have the answers, except that we need God.

One thing the RUF commander said was true, that youth are the future. Yet, that's just like the devil who mixes lies with truth to make everything sound true. But, youth are the future. The question is, will they serve God like David and Timothy in their youth, or will we allow the devil to capture their hearts?

How do we help Africa? Do we just send some money? Buying diamonds from conflict zones sends money to Africa, but obviously it doesn't help the situation. Legislation like banning the import and sale of blood diamonds can help, some. Giving to charities can help, and I'm thankful for all the recent awareness about Africa, but charity won't solve all their problems. We need to pray and some people need to go there. Some of the greatest revivals have taken place on the continent of Africa, yet why is it still plagued by so much conflict, corruption, starvation and HIV/AIDS? I don't know, other than that humans are far from perfect and this world needs God in a major way.

I wish I were more motivated to do something, but sometimes I feel paralyzed by all the problems in the world and in my own life. There is no way one person can solve all the world's problems (other than Jesus), but we can still pray, give and go where God leads. And sometimes it takes time. My friends at Global Support Mission, who recently went on a mission trip to Uganda, say that action starts with awareness (which this movie brings), which leads to sympathy and finally compassion (=action).

I am thankful for our God who is able to bring healing to a land, like He did for Israel several times: "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Why are stories so powerful?

I just watched Bridge to Terabithia again last night (twice). It's a powerfully moving story, and even if it is a kid's story, it touched something deep in my heart. It made me long for something, it made me cry. And it inspired me to pray.

I identify with Jesse in a lot of ways, especially when I was his age. Feeling outcast and longing to belong, facing bullies, being hounded about chores by my dad, wanting to express my creativity and needing others to help me get past my shyness. I had a best friend and a girlfriend. But then my girlfriend dumped me and my best friend found other friends who I didn't get along with. It wasn't death, but it was still a hard loss.

I long for my walk with Jesus to be like Jesse and Leslie in the story. The wonder, the joy, the fulfillment, the freedom of expression, the fellowship and being accepted by one who truly knows me. To walk in creativity using the gifts God's given me. To believe and see the great things He says. So that's what I prayed about last night, and I just rested in His presence.

I hope my wife someday will also be something like Leslie was to Jesse. Not replacing God, but accepting and inspiring and encouraging and having someone to fight for.

Back to the power of stories: Jesus used stories to preach, and in my own experience a testimony is more powerful than a tract. Stories like Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Braveheart and others touch people deeply. I would love to be able to tell stories that touch and inspire, heal and bring hope, and perhaps gently open people's hearts to God, like Narnia.

It would be cool to write stories, and who knows if that might happen. But even if I never write a book, I would love to create games that tell stories, like Final Fantasy. I love stories, and God has given me a love and gift for technology, and games are such a popular medium today. So my dream job would be to tell stories through video games.

Stories can penetrate our hearts without our minds messing it all up. That's why they're so powerful, like few other things - such as music. They can bring hope, inspire love and bring healing. I love a good story. And I would love to somehow be involved in telling good stories.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

New MacBook Pros

I've been waiting for this day, and today Apple unveiled their new MacBook Pros! They are very attractive with their new upgrades. I'm especially excited about the new graphics processor (NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT) which is more gamer-friendly than the previous generation (it's still not the ultimate gaming GPU, but definitely an improvement and I'm sure I'll be happy). There are other upgrades as well, including Intel's new Santa Rosa chipset, LED backlighting and more.

Of course, I'll need to run Windows some (probably Vista Home Premium) to do some development and play some games, but I'm excited to (hopefully very soon) get a much faster and more portable computer which I can switch between Mac and Windows.

Now I'm just praying for the cash - cause it ain't the cheapest thing around.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

What's your favorite form of communication? (poll)

Technology has greatly multiplied the number of ways we can communicate. But, different people prefer different forms of communication over others. Of course, circumstances vary and the preferred method may depend on what you need to communicate or who you need to communicate to. For the poll's sake, however, please choose your overall favorite. Feel free to explain your choice in a comment, or even comment about your least favorite method, etc.

Take the poll




Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Good Times

When are my favorite times? The times I remember and cherish?

The best are when God speaks to me while I'm in His presence. Being in His presence is always great and God definitely refreshed me through several prayer & worship meetings the last 6 months.

Next is almost always when I'm with a few good friends - rarely at a big party, nor usually even when I'm with just one other friend (though it can be great). My favorite times are usually when I'm spending quality time with a small group of friends. Like our camping trip to the Smokies in March, playing games at the Blair house after prayer, and a trip to Tahoe with my brother and two close friends during Christmas break. I really love it when I feel like I'm a part of the group, like I'm appreciated and not an outsider. I wish I felt that way more often.

I am thankful, however, for a few of my close friends who do make me feel appreciated. I realize I should make more of an effort to get together or call them more regularly - unfortunately it's so easy for me to get distracted or be lazy. I ought to let them know I appreciate them, and even to reach out to those who also feel alone (can you feel my selfishness and insecurities cringing?). But, I hope to change by God's grace, so that I will do more of what really matters in life.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Get Perpendicular

As I was researching external hard drives, I was reading about perpendicular recording technology which newer hard drives are using to fit more data into a smaller space. I found this hilarious and educational music video by Hitachi explaining the technology. Check it out, it's Get Perpendicular.

If you haven't already heard, Hitachi just released the world's first terabyte drive (1 TB = 1,000 GB) which uses perpendicular recording technology.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A great new band

A few of my friends performed their first show for their new band tonight, and I was amazed. I loved their sound and I thought they played very well. I want to buy their CD - but they don't have one yet. It was just a small crowd of a few of their friends, but it was a great show. I am honored to have such talented friends.

They have a bit of a Coldplay feel, with a mix including mellow and intense songs. I was definitely getting into the beat. I am far from a band critic and not quite impartial, but I think they have potential to be big. I think they need to figure out their band name before that can happen though. ;-)

The band members include:

  • Travis on drums
  • Aaron on keys, accordion and backup vocals
  • Travis on electric guitar
  • Quinn on lead vocals, acoustic guitar and keys
  • (I forget his name) on bass

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Favorite web development tools

Here are some of the tools which I find very helpful when doing software development. I use Windows so some of these tools are only for Windows - but most of them are open source. My latest project involved ASP and VBScript, though I've also been doing some ASP.NET and C# lately:

  • Notepad++ - a great text editor which has syntax highlighting for most programming languages, basic auto-completion via ctrl-space, regular expression find/replace, and several other features & plug-ins including a hex-editor.
  • WinMerge - a really cool tool to compare files and even directories. You can merge individual changes between files and even edit from within the tool. You can even use custom filters when comparing directories, which is helpful when comparing directories under version control.
  • TortoiseSVN - The best client for the best version control system - Subversion. :) (Of course, I haven't had much experience with other systems, but I'm entitled to my opinion.) Since I've started using version control, I love it. It provides a way to log my changes, to see what I've changed since my last revision (or go back to a specific revision), another backup system in case we screw something up, a way to code and test on a development server and easily update the live server, and a way to sync changes with my co-worker. Merging could be easier (svnmerge helps - but it's not perfect).
  • Trac - A project manager/issue tracker and wiki. It's pretty sweet and it integrates really well with Subversion. It's far from perfect, but it's come in quite handy and half our office used it when we developed our new intranet. It's much better than using an Excel spreadsheet to track bugs (which I did at a previous company). I really wish it had better support for multiple projects and a few other features. Since I didn't find the perfect issue tracker, here are some others I looked at:
    • Atlassian JIRA - really cool, but not free for us
    • Flyspray - has multiple project support, ticket dependencies, voting and better notification, but doesn't integrate as well with Subversion and has pretty poor support for IE (which is an issue if you need to work with several others).
    • Porchlight - cool Ruby on Rails app, similar to Basecamp, but limited and has a price scale
    • I did not really look at Bugzilla since from everything I've heard it's a big, scary monster.
  • Google - I'm always looking up language syntax, best practices, solutions, and more. Plus having a built-in news reader and a time-sensitive scenic view (thanks to the new themes) - it's great. Google Groups can be really handy for discussions, too.
There are several other tools I use, like Visual Web Developer Express and Reflector for .NET when I'm developing in ASP.NET and C#. Or Firefox with the Web Developer Toolbar and FireBug. Or GIMP for graphics. Etc, etc. Anyways, I'd love to hear your thoughts, and what your favorite tools are.