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Recommendations for home backup solution

Can anyone suggest approaches for backing up a small home network (2
linux pcs and a linux/winxp dual-booting laptop). My criteria are:

* automaticity. It just won't happen unless it does itself once set up.
I'll probably have to trigger the laptop one manually, but even there
I'd like user data to be regularly (or even constantly?)  synced with
backup if possible.

* use of existing media: I can't buy anything new and expensive, so have
to be able to back up either to cd's (not likely though: would need a
stack) or an external usb hard drive. My machines only have a total of
about 150GB of disk space.

* ease of setup. Obviously I'll have to spend a bit of time to set it
up, but I'd really like it not to take me days, and I'm no linux expert.

Possible things I've glanced at include rsync (at least for user data),
cpio, tar, backuppc (anyone used it? looks interesting), mondorescue.

I'm interested in real personal experience: it seems to me that any of
these tools *could* do what I need but I'd love to hear from someone who
has really used them with success.

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