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What you have right now for your exclude phrase is:
I'm thinking that the file name pattern should be:
While it's true that a directory is sort of a file, the actual files that the PATTERN looks for is files within a directory. I think that by adding something to indicate files, all in this case, within a directory that are to be excluded, you should have better luck.
Not to change the subject, but dar works great for that kind of thing. The settings seem very user-friendly and I've been using it successfully for a while now. Anyway, tar should work fine, but dar seems to be a better system for major system-wide backups like that.
Use rsync if you're simply mirroring a drive, and dar as your solution if you want to back up compressed image files (BTW, this backs up files individually within a volume, so one disk error means ONE problem file, not a stack of them). I do both regularly (rsync every couple of days, dar monthly), and once I got the setup debugged, I haven't had problems.
In fact, my backup methods as described will even automatically back up the /boot partition. Not an issue for most people, but if you have had occasion to make changes, you'll appreciate this. I say methods because it'll walk you through both rsync to a drive mirror and dar to a stack of DVD-Rs.
You could also create a file somewhere on your machine called "backup.excludes", which contains "/proc", "/dev", or whatever you want to exclude, and then use the flag "--exclude-from /somedir/backup.excludes". I've been successful with that syntax, even though, like you, I've never had any luck using "--exclude".