Building documentation and matplotlibrc

This weekend I put a bit of time into bringing the Debian packaging[1]
for the matplotlib 1.0 series up to date.

In the tree it seems there is a matplotlibrc in the /doc
directory. Judging from the documentation, it looks like matplotlib will
first use a matplotlibrc in the current directory. This works very well
for the case of packaging for Debian, since I can simply override the
examples.* options here to avoid downloading the samples while building
the documentation.

In practice, however, I have run into a few issues. First, the comment
regarding indicates that this path must be
absolute. Is this really true? For obvious reasons we don't know the
absolute path of the samples until we actually build the package. I
suppose an 'echo' in the packaging makefile could dynamically patch this
path in, but a relative path would be far simpler.

Secondly, it seems that the doc/matplotlibrc file is completely ignored.
When I tried building with "", I still
saw multiple failed download attempts in the package build log. Indeed,
even putting an invalid line in doc/matplotlibrc doesn't result in an

For the record, the documentation build process is invoked with,

  cd doc ; MATPLOTLIBDATA=../lib/matplotlib/mpl-data/ \
  PYTHONPATH=../build/lib.$(PY_PLATFORM)-$(DEFPY) ./ --small all

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

- Ben