> With that out of the way, I think you're not understanding Belmont's answer properly.
Correct. On a default install, it'll read ./mame.ini, set that inipath (which will be .) and then read mame.ini from the new path (which is the same as the old path). Nothing special happens then
Whereas if you've got a system-installed version of MAME on Linux in /usr/bin and a mame.ini in /etc/mame that sets inipath to $(HOME), it'll first read /etc/mame/mame.ini, then set the inipath to the user's home directory, and read mame.ini from there. That way each user has their own personalized settings, roms, artwork, etc. (You could do something similar on Windows 7 or later but it'd require a little bit of support from MAME, and nobody installs Windows multi-user).