NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA) is traveling a rocky road these days. The graphics chip designer just reported second-quarter sales of $811 million and a GAAP net loss of $0.25 per share, down from $1 billion and a profit of $0.23 per share last quarter. Naturally, the stock price is up on a generally down day in the stock market.

That reaction seems to defy logic until you look a little closer at NVIDIA's report. The bottom-line damage is largely explained by a couple of one-time charges -- one for unusually large inventory write-offs and the other due to the costs of shipping products in 2008 in bad packaging. Back all of that out and you'll get a non-GAAP profit of $0.03 per share.

"Rapidly changing market conditions made for a challenging quarter," said CEO Jen-Hsun Huang. Memory prices are up, demand for stand-alone graphics cards is down, and NVIDIA was stuck with tons of unsellable chips. Despite today's gains, the share price is not back to where it was before the company lowered its revenue guidance a couple of weeks ago.

At the same time, NVIDIA is now paying license fees to Rambus (Nasdaq: RMBS) for the right to have memory controllers in its graphics and system chips. Rambus is still pressing patent infringement charges in court, hoping to squeeze more cash out of NVIDIA in back damages, but the infringement damages will stop ticking today.

NVIDIA reported a weak market starting in late May. Cisco Systems' (Nasdaq: CSCO) slow sales came along a couple of weeks later and seem to have relented by the end of July, while NVIDIA's weakness is here to stay, by Hsuang's admission. That's terrible timing for a company that loves back-to-school sales leading into the holidays.

We're talking about a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick and five-star CAPS stock here, and my own thumbs-up vote from last September is hemorrhaging CAPS points. But I don't see much reason to cheer for NVIDIA today. Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) has been crushing NVIDIA in the markets it cares about the most, and Huang's repeated invocation of Activision Blizzard's (Nasdaq: ATVI) StarCraft II as the savior of all things graphics-and-gaming comes across as more desperate than sincere. I'm tempted to cut my CAPS pick and live with the damage it has incurred on my All-Star status.

Go forth and make your own analysis of NVIDIA known to the CAPS world. It only takes a few clicks and won't cost you a thin dime.