About me

I’m a network & systems engineer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the United States.  I have dual US/UK citizenship, and travel often to the UK.  In addition to my career, I’m a patron of the arts and am involved with nonprofit organizations in service to my community.

My work involves systems & network architecture & engineering, with over three decades experience.  My software development skills are primarily in scripting languages, such as PHP, Perl, & Python, and various shell languages.  Most of my software work is in service to systems architecture and administration, task automation, customization, etc.  My networking efforts are primarily focused on helping the enterprise leverage available network resources to best serve their needs, with attention to cost minimization and reliability.  Together these skills have made me a talented Internet Plumber, fashioning Bespoke Networks, built to purpose.

Systems Design

I believe in taking a holistic approach to systems design & development.  It all starts with the client and the problem they’re trying to solve.  Everything else grows organically from there.  I will never start with a solution and go looking for the problem to fit it.

My ethos is strongly influenced by Open Systems principles, and specifically by Open Source deployed on Open Systems.  Over the past three decades I’ve worked on numerous flavors of Unix.  Most recently (since 1995) on Linux and FreeBSD.  My own systems run on Ubuntu, but I am well versed in RedHat, Fedora, and CentOS; FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD; Solaris was a common environment for me in the late 1990s, but not so much any more.

The hacker ethos, as best described by Eric Raymond in The Cathedral And The Bazaar in 1997, tells us that when we need a tool, first look for an existing one, one that comes close to what we need, and then adapt it to our purposes.  While this is a good approach for many tools, it’s not always the best way to approach a systems level problem.  Knowing when to borrow and adapt versus building from scratch is an important inflection.

Network Design

My network design practice has always been client-centered, with a special focus on helping an enterprise to define for themselves just what they need and expect their network to do for them.  Together we craft solutions which maximize the impact the network has on the enterprize while minimizing the associated costs.

My frequent tools include public and private connections, IP/Sec and SSL VPN technologies, commercial and Open Source switches and routers.

CCNA 95374066

Software Development

In addition to custom, typically one-off, utility software, I have also been involved with several Open Source projects.  These include:

  • Postilion: An X Windows Email client
    • Principle developer, designer
    • Designed to look and feel like the “mail.app” of the NextStep OS, this IMAP/POP client was widely used from 1995 – 2000, when development ceased
    • Written in Tcl/Tk
  • Squirrelmail: Webmail client
    • Contributed to various parts of the project
    • Contributed code to refine included libraries for such tasks as IMAP protocol or SMTP RFC related processing.
    • Written in PHP
  • PhpLdapAdmn: LDAP browser & editor
    • Contributed primarily to authentication code
    • Written in PHP
  • Cyrus IMAP: Enterprise scale IMAP & calendaring server
    • Technical writing for website
    • Documentation, including manual pages, how-tos, best practices documents, etc.
    • Active in development meetings, IRC, and mailing list discussions
    • Documentation written in Restructured Text (Sphinx)
  • Netdisco/SNMP::Info: Network management
    • Contributed code for interfacing with various models of network switches
    • Contributed code to clarify and distill network descriptive data.
    • Written in Perl/Dancer
  • Nagios/Icinga: Network monitoring
    • Contributed numerous service “plugins” to public tool exchanges
    • Written in PHP, Perl, and Bourne shell
  • Presager mobile: (Proprietary) Network monitoring app
    • App for iPhone & Android to monitor network-attached systems
    • Wrote server component
    • Written in PHP/CodeIgnitor
  • Presager: (Proprietary) Network monitoring system
    • Integration of existing Open Source software for network management, monitoring, analysis
    • Included custom front-end GUI for network description and configuration of monitoring components

Exhibit Development

Over a fifteen year period working with Discovery World Museum, I was involved with the creation of over two hundred exhibit stations in nearly a dozen different exhibits relating to health, electricity, gyroscopes, lasers, radio, observation, computers, video, simple machines, haptics, robotics, and much more

Later, working with a local trade show exhibit firm, I led the development of a half-million dollar interactive exhibit for an international manufacturer of construction equipment, highlighting the benefits of their hydraulic systems over those of their competition.

Story is the core of exhibitry. The ability to get to the essence of a concept, relate that to the visitor, open lines of thought and consideration; it’s all story telling at heart. A successful exhibit begins with finding the story, and then developing ways to tell that story, using available technology and art. All of the tools of a good story teller contribute to the development of an effective exhibit.

Product Development

A successful prototype blends vision with reality, magic with practice. Just as good exhibit development begins with the story being conveyed, good product development begins an understanding of the problem to be solved. Both depend on listening, understanding, empathy and curiosity. Good products don’t start with the solution, they end there. They start with the proper understanding of the problem.

Over my career, the problems I have solved have ranged broadly, whether to bewilder a visitor to a spy-themed night club, to teach a child how a laser works, to remotely control a camera’s position. In every case knowledge of the problem leads the way and the solution follows.

One of the most important skills in my quiver is my recognition of the limitations of that quiver of skills. I know when to say I Don’t Know, and I know what to do about that. Fielding a team of talent to tackle problems is paramount, as is openness to learning new fields and skills to overcome challenges.


Professional affiliations consist of my contributions to the Open Source projects listed in the Software Development section.  I hold CCNA certification (Cisco ID 95374066)

Personal affiliations are both my active roles in governance of nonprofit groups, and my memberships in arts organizations around our region:

  • Founder, Executive Director, Treasurer and Board Member: Feast Of Crispian, Inc.
    • Feast of Crispian (FoC) is a not for profit organization based in Milwaukee, WI.  Our work focuses on using Shakespeare’s texts to help veterans and others coping with trauma to overcome those challenges and find ways to process their trauma, reintegrate into civil society, and forge stronger ties with their loved ones.
    • I was involved with the founding of FoC in 2012, and have worked with it ever since.
    • FoC is proud to be a Resident Company of the Milwaukee Rep, and for producing the first ever National Veterans’ Theatre Festival over Memorial Day weekend of 2019.  We’ll be bringing more to the stage in 2020 and beyond.
  • Past Board Member: WIldspace Dance Company
  • Memberships:
    • Milwaukee Art Museum: Donor
    • Racine Art Museum
    • Museum of Wisconsin Art
    • JM Kohler Art Center
    • Art Institute of Chicago
    • Tate Museums, Great Britain


Nic Bernstein

1111 N Astor Street, Apartment B2

Milwaukee, WI  53202-3319