I know that to determine the minimum distance of a code given its basis we can follow this procedure:

Let $\{ c_1, \ldots, c_k \}$ be a basis for a code of length $n$ and dimension $k$. Then the generator matrix is $B$ whose rows are $c_i$. I know that row ops on $B$ do not change the code so we can assume that $B = (P | I_k)$. Now the parity check matrix is given by $A = (P^\top | I_{n-k})$ and the minimum distance of the code is the minimum number of columns of $A$ that are linearly dependent.

The problem is that this approach can be very tedious for large codes as we have to reduce $B$ to echelon form, so my question are:

1) Is there in general an easier approach? Eg. looking at the weight of the codewords in the basis.

2) If $C$ is cyclic should I also follow the same approach?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 1) There is and its implemented in Magma. 2) For specific codes like BCH codes there are better methods due to the structure of the codes. $\endgroup$
    – Wuestenfux
    May 5, 2020 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ What is Magma?? $\endgroup$
    – john
    May 5, 2020 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ magma.maths.usyd.edu.au/magma $\endgroup$
    – Riccardo
    May 5, 2020 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ Computer algebra system. $\endgroup$
    – Wuestenfux
    May 5, 2020 at 16:07

1 Answer 1


See the paper "The intractability of computing the minimum distance of a code" by Alexander Vardy in the IEEE Transactions on Information Theory, vol. 43, November 1997. Since this is behind a paywall, I quote the abstract below.

Abstract: It is shown that the problem of computing the minimum distance of a binary linear code is NP-hard, and the corresponding decision problem is NP-complete. This result constitutes a proof of the conjecture of Berlekamp, McEliece, and van Tilborg (1978). Extensions and applications of this result to other problems in coding theory are discussed.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the exact quote. I am favoriting this question so that (hopefully) I can retrieve it the next time this question gets asked. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2020 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen Thanks. Seven years ago, you edited this question whose answers also reference the Vardy paper. $\endgroup$ May 6, 2020 at 16:16

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