No need for a C64sx when you have the cloud these days.
Commodore VICE runs great in the cloud - and so the key is finding the right cloud medium to run it from. In using the cloud, you can still get your commodore nerd-twerking self in gear while still nearby family instead of being a hermit in a corner of your house; All you need is a laptop. This probably won’t work for C64 gaming but is near and dear to those of us who do long hours of programming code.
Obviously, there are a lot of choices out there to decide on where to run it from. To me, expense was a big driver. Currently I am running off Kamatera which meets my needs.
Running on Kamatera, performance slouched with 1A CPU driving the configuration (1=1CPU - A=Availability setting - cheapest option for CPU), but having a 2A configuration, along with 2GB RAM seems to work well. Running this configuration costs $22/month for Windows 10 Desktop.
Another option to consider is Shells. A 2-Processor setup with 4GB memory is $13.95/mo (if paid yearly - otherwise, it’s $18.95), but performance is iffy in this configuration, and additional power will be needed if you must do VICE in Windows. In recent testing of this configuration, invoking the x64sc module brought the virtual desktop to a crawl. There is a fix option though – keep reading…
Shells offers excellent priced packages and easy reconfiguration as needed to get the job done. It’s interface and setup are quick and simple. They are the cheapest I have found (or used), particularly if you use their yearly plans. Again, you need to ensure the “hardware” configuration can handle it, and note my tests run in the 4 VCPU package under Windows 10 were extremely poor, rendering the desktop unusable. That said, the same configuration running Ubuntu 20.04 and using Vice-JZ worked well, with no noticeable degradation.
Pros and cons of the two I listed:
- Static IP included - great for BBSes!
- Vast configuration options to choose from and easy to change on the fly
- Nice desktop interface / web driven
- VICE appears very responsive under their Windows 10 2A CPU / 2GB RAM configuration; 4GB is even better!
- Excellent support (Note: for those in the US, the support is on the other side of the world)
- Offers pre-built template OSes to suit your other needs
- No application support for remote devices. Must use offered GUI or a desktop sharing program
- More expensive than Shells, but more responsive
- GUI times out after about 45 minutes and must be restarted
- Alternative: Use Desktop viewer like TeamViewer (free)
- Monthly only option - no yearly discount (that I’ve discovered)
- Less drive space offered unless you pay $$
- Snapshots cost extra $$
- Offers Monthly rates or discounted Yearly rates - allows for some coffee from Starbucks
- Nice GUI options - easy to use
- Offers three configurations - Lite, Basic, Power
- Advanced mode operation for additional power features
- Excellent support - for those in US, this is local
- Offers ability to transfer ownership of system
- More drive space per dollar
- Shells also offers an app for easy connection/manipulation from phone or computer
- Free Snapshots of computer build
- Even using four virtual CPUs and 4GB RAM, using the Commodore environment is sluggish and brings the virtual computer to near never-never land when running in Windows environment
- Notable Alternative: Run Vice-JZ under Ubuntu! This works.
- Preselected configurations only, although does allow for some minor tweaking
- Some reconfigure options will wipe out current build (but you also have snapshots!)
- Static IP costs additional $1
Snapshot of Vice-JZ running VisionBasic in 64 mode on Ubuntu
Kamatera appears to be the best fit and cost solution for a Commodore 64 if you want to avoid Linux; and is globally accessible wherever you are and whatever computing resource you are using. At $22/mo, you can have VICE running on a Windows desktop that appears stable and responsive. As an alternative, you could utilize their linux builds as well, but it was not tested for Kamatera for this review (see Shells review below).
If you don’t mind using Ubuntu, I say SHELLS is a solid choice. Conversely, if you use Windows, recommend Shells Pro ($35.95/mo or $24.95/mo if paid as yearly), or choose their “Build Your Own” option. Shells Pro will still only give you 4 VCPUs, but adds precious RAM to your configuration (8 GB versus 4 GB for Shells Plus). If you can handle Ubuntu (GUI version 20.04), then you can use Shells Plus with Ubuntu and install VICE-JZ. This configuration worked very well.
Do you have another tested configuration? Reply here and share your wealth of knowledge!