On a Mac OS X system, such as a MacBook Pro laptop, you can detemine the available WiFi networks from a shell prompt, which you can get by running the Terminal program located in Applications/Utilities, by using the command below:
$ /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/A/Resources/airport scan SSID BSSID RSSI CHANNEL HT CC SECURITY (auth/unicast/group) SC8QR f8:e4:fb:ea:29:5d -86 11 Y -- WPA2(PSK/AES,TKIP/TKIP) 08FX02038916 00:18:3a:8a:01:c5 -80 6 N -- WEP Norman Netgear 84:1b:5e:2d:c9:16 -79 6 Y -- WPA2(PSK/AES/AES) 558935 0c:54:a5:48:19:e5 -16 1 Y -- WPA(PSK/AES,TKIP/TKIP) WPA2(PSK/AES,TKIP/TKIP) Hickox 0c:d5:02:c5:e8:8e -80 11 N -- WEP Haze 94:44:52:5a:54:54 -33 11 Y -- WPA(PSK/AES/AES) WPA2(PSK/AES/AES) David's Net ec:1a:59:8d:dd:61 -80 11 Y -- WPA2(PSK/AES/AES)
The SSID is the "Service Set Identification", which is a 1 to 32 byte string that represents the "network name". The SSID allows you to identify a network to which you may wish to connect. Sometimes a person setting up a wireless router may choose to not have the SSID broadcast. In that case you wouldn't see the SSID in the list even though the network is available for connections if you know the SSID.
The BSSID is the "Basic Service Set Identification". Each Basic Service Set is identified by a BSSID. For a BSS operating in infrastructure mode, the BSSID is the media access control (MAC) address of the wireless access point (WAP), which is generated by combining the 24-bit Organizationally Unique Identifier, which identifies the manufacturer, and the manufacturer's assigned 24-bit identifier for the radio chipset in the WAP. The BSSID is the formal name of the BSS and is always associated with only one BSS. The SSID is the informal human name of the BSS which is more easily remembered by humans.
You can determine the manufacturer from the BSSID by searching the
IEE-SA - Registration Authority MA-L Public Listing. Take the first six
digits of the BSSID and replace the colons with dashes and then put the
result, which will be in the form of xx-xx-xx in the "Search for" field. E.g.,
in the case of the wireless network above identified as "David's Net", the
ec:1a:59:8d:dd:61, so you would search using
ec-1a-59, which would show the wireless device was
manufacturered by Belkin International Inc., a company that make wireless
routers for the home market. For the network identified as "Norman Netgear",
84-1b-5e shows the manufacturer is, indeed, Netgear.
If you just want the names of the available networks, i.e., the SSIDs, you can use the same command and then pipe its output to the cut command. Since the SSID will be the first 32 characters on each line, you will need to cut out the first 32 characters from each line.
$ /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/A/Resources/airport scan | cut -c1-32 SSID SC8QR 08FX02038916 Norman Netgear 558935 Hickox Haze David's Net