HOWTO: Make a Doctor Who "Bells of St John" Style WiFi Name

No spoilers, sweetie :-)

This evening's Doctor Who - The Bells of St John - revolves around mysterious WiFi signals.

Alien SSIDs which, if you connect to them.... well, watch the episode to find out!

In the show, they look like these:
Doctor Who Wifi SSIDs
So, can we do the same thing for our home WiFi network? Yup!

Wifi Doctor Who Detail

There are some limitations though. SSIDs can only have a maximum length of 32 byte. Those are usually interpreted as 8-bit characters, so if you're using multibyte Unicode characters, you're reliant on the device doing the scanning interpreting the SSID correctly. You also rely on the device you're trying to connect being able to display the characters.

In this example, the Android device isn't able to render one of the glyphs correctly.
Android WiFi Unicode

Depending on your WiFi router, it may simply not accept characters outside the "normal" ASCII range.

I picked a Unicode string of "╦┐◤︻㍕┻═▄" but you, of course, can choose one which matches the TV show a little more closely - assuming you can find the right characters in the ever expanding Unicode set.

If you want something approaching the WiFi name from the start of the episode:
WiFi Name from start of Doctor Who

You can use "┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐"
Thanks to Nsurgnie on Reddit for figuring it out.

BONUS!

Update 2013-04-03.
Want to scare people outside of your house? You can use Android's WiFi hotspot to broadcast the SSID wherever you go!
Android Doctor Who Hotspot-fs8


71 Responses to “HOWTO: Make a Doctor Who "Bells of St John" Style WiFi Name”

      • kevin Image of kevin

        Do you know how to get a pc to recognise this text? also what font type is this called?

        Reply
          • kevin Image of kevin

            I'm on windows 8 and have chrome updated to the latest version. I can see all the symbols on the link you posted but for some reason my pc doesnt read it when its being broadcast by my android phone

            Reply
            • codelion Image of codelion

              It's because for the most part computer's aren't designed to handle unicode in the SSID. A ways back there was a "prank" where you would do the same thing and it would crash mac's like crazy because they would try to display the unprotected network's SSID then crash because they couldn't.
              Ubuntu, on the other hand, shows it just fine. Linux FTW

              Reply
    • TheNobody Image of TheNobody

      For those restricted by keyboard characters, this could work:
      ][ [_] =/ /| [']

      Reply
  1. kevin Image of kevin

    My pc doesnt recognize it but it appears on my android phone =] So I'm guessing it only shows up on mac?

    Reply
  2. exogenetic Image of exogenetic

    This is a great idea - especially good as April Fools' is just around the corner. The only problem I have is that my router translates the symbols into things like "&#9491", and won't allow other devices to see it while scanning for Wi-Fi networks, unless they're using a wired connection. any ideas on why this happens?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

      It really depends on which router you have. There's really no way we can help you unless you tell us

      • Router Make and Model
      • Software Version
      • If it's the latest version
      Reply
      • exogenetic Image of exogenetic

        I have a Belkin 54g router, with firmware (my router admin page only links to firmware?) version 7.00.23, which is the not the latest version - when I try to upgrade to 7.00.24, it doesn't do anything and stays at '.23.
        The only thing I'm particularly wondering about is why it won't let devices connect when you change the SSID, but if you could help with both that and changing the SSID to symbols then you'd be a great help. Thank you!

        Reply
  3. septamus Image of septamus

    I have a Netgear WNAP320 with firmware version 2.1.1
    When I try to enter the Unicode SSID it translates it into @ symbols and other characters. Is there any way of helping this?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

      DD-WRT should be able to.

      In the web interface, make a new virtual interface called "ath0.1".

      Then SSH in and issue this command
      root@DD-WRT:~# nvram set ath0.1_ssid="┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐"

      Go back to the web interface and hit "apply"

      It may give you an error, but it should start working.

      Reply
      • Jasper Capel Image of Jasper Capel

        I had to feed it the hex codes as the shell didn't like those characters. I also had to replace the space with the invisible character:

        # nvram set wl_ssid=$(echo -e '\xe2\x94\x93\xe2\x94\x8f\xe2\x81\xa3\xe5\x87\xb5\xe2\x95\xb1\xe2\x8a\xbf\xe2\x94\x8c\xe2\x94\xac\xe2\x94\x90\x0a')
        # nvram get wl_ssid
        ┓┏⁣凵╱⊿┌┬┐

        Reply
      • Joseph Wilson Image of Joseph Wilson

        SSH in? I'm not sure what that means..
        Is there any way I could just enter a command into the command box while logged into the router?

        Reply
  4. Ashley Renee Image of Ashley Renee

    I use a modem/router from Clear. The error message I'm getting is: "Some punctuations are not supported for Network Name (SSID). Please use characters or numbers." It doesn't look promising, but is there any way around it?

    Reply
  5. jtdhs2011 Image of jtdhs2011

    Error: The Network Name must be a unique 1 to 32 character ASCII string
    and must NOT match any other SSID on this AP.

    Reply
  6. anon2193 Image of anon2193

    nice. I have a crappy belkin and had to edit the web interface javascript to disable unicode checks using chrome. The validator function is "evaltF", in wireless_id.html which calls some stuff in "routine_data.js". I replaced their custom "encodeURL" with javascript's encodeURI. No probs on the router end and devices that can read unicode see the proper result.

    Reply
  7. Discodoris Image of Discodoris

    It wasn't actually figured out by nsurgnie, but by my partner - nsurgnie is a friend of both of us (we don't have reddit accounts) He goes by the nickname of Poki and I by Discodoris (hence the protected wifi account that is actually connected).

    Reply
  8. I CLAVDIVS Image of I CLAVDIVS

    I have a tplink wr741nd, but when I try this it says "illegal ssid"
    please help

    Reply
  9. Synnth Image of Synnth

    Any suggestions on how to do this for a actiontec m1424 wr router? It just keeps telling me that "Service Set Identifier must consist of 1 to 32 characters and must not contain any special character."

    Reply
  10. Synnth Image of Synnth

    Ah. The firmware seems to be the newest version, so it looks like i'm out of luck. Oh well, thanks :)

    Reply
  11. pjottrr Image of pjottrr

    in dd-wrt it's working fine, just use the wl ssid "......." command to set the wify name, don't touch the webinterface
    btw it doesn't seem putty understands the 256 bit ascii character set. ( if you paste it, you only get dots and spaces. You need to do this from a Linux or ssh native box

    Reply
  12. ViRuS Image of ViRuS

    I could not get mine to work so I just called it "ViRuS" That should keep people from getting interested in it...

    Reply
  13. Leis Image of Leis

    Hate to be another person asking for help doing this, but I have a Netgear WGT624v2 running the latest firmware. Is there any workaround, or is that it?

    Reply
    • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

      That's a really old router, and it doesn't look like there is any DD-WRT support for it. It might be worth installing the Japanese firmware, as that may allow you to input non-ASCII characters in the SSID.

      Reply
  14. alex Image of alex

    ok I downloaded PUTTY, now how do I ssh into my router (tp link wr741nd). I have ddwrt firmware

    Reply
  15. Jinn Ko Image of Jinn Ko

    Got it working on my MikroTik with RouterOS 5.24 with the following:

    /interface wireless set 1 ssid="\E2\94\93\E2\94\8F\E2\81\A3\E5\87\B5\E2\95\B1\E2\8A\BF\E2\94\8C\E2\94\AC\E2\94\90A"

    Reply
  16. Batgrl2u Image of Batgrl2u

    I was able to change it in my router (Belkin F5D8236-4 v-2), and it shows up correctly. But, on all my wireless devices, the name shows up as "RT2860AP". Why is this?

    Reply
  17. John Aisdias Image of John Aisdias

    Windows 7 adhoc network (so I can take it around the city randomly) fails, I get a bunch of question marks and some +s and -s:

    Reply
  18. Thanatos Image of Thanatos

    Working well on the mobile hotspot on my Galaxy S3. Haven't had a chance to try it on my Linksys router yet, since it's at the new house waiting for cable to be hooked up tomorrow :-(

    Reply
  19. Daniel Image of Daniel

    I am using a FreedomPop sleeve (iPod 4th gen). The error I am getting is "The network name (ssid) contains 1 or more characters that are not valid." Any help would be appreciated.

    Reply
  20. Peter Edwards Image of Peter Edwards

    I tried it using the hotspot on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus to link to my laptop. It shows a bunch of a's with triangles, upside down triangles and accent marks... How would I go about making it work?

    I've got a Toshiba laptop running Windows 7 by the way, if that helps...

    Reply
    • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

      Your version of Windows may not be suitable. It certainly works on Mac and Linux. I suggest contacting Toshiba to see if there's a driver update for your WiFi.

      Reply
  21. jenshu7 Image of jenshu7

    I'm on a Samsung R480 laptop with Windows 7 completely updated firefox and google chrome. I have a netgear wireless g-router WGR614v10 and it says that the characters are not allowed. I tried different languages installed on my language bar as well and those were also not allowed

    Reply
  22. Roraigh Price Image of Roraigh Price

    my virgin super hub doesn't like this as a ssid -'┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐' what do i do i tried setting it up as a guest ssid. i cant find an update router in the control panel

    Reply
  23. C. Blue Image of C. Blue

    Non-techie here . . . I can't help but notice that the article never actually tells readers *how* to do it; it just confirms that it can be done. I thought from the title there would be step by step instructions on HOW to change the name of the router to the special characters. Apparently, everyone commenting in already knows.

    Reply
    • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

      Hi,
      As you can appreciate, there are hundreds of thousands of different routers - each with their own unique way of setting the name.

      I do presuppose a certain amount of technical knowledge, or prior experience of setting up your router. If all else fails, reading the manual usually works.

      T

      Reply
  24. 2BlondieGirl Image of 2BlondieGirl

    even if i hadn't seen the episode i wouldn't want to click a link let alone a wifi thats like ┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐ is, i'd think it was full of viruses because it just seems weird, but because of doctor who i now have to fear something even worse than viruses

    Reply
  25. Cloudane Image of Cloudane

    Doesn't show up right in the wifi menu on Windows 7 (just comes up as accented characters) but the one that TheNobody posted is more compatible. Depends I guess whether your target audience is likely to be Windows, Mac or Android users..

    What I'd like to do next, is make it open and set up one of those sign-in pages, you know like when you join "free" wifi in various places? But instead of a login box, have it display a weeping angel. Preferably a slow 2-frame gif... :)

    Reply

What Do You Reckon?