For backups in Linux, I prefer Dar. If you are a Linux user, using Kde, there is also Kdar, a GUI front end for Dar. Dar is a command line utility with a good tutorial. Once you get it figured out, it's great. Testing a backup is easy. Restoring part or all is easy. The tutorial guides you step by step. You can even include Dar files in the backup so that you can first restore Dar, then restore the rest of the backup.
For partitioning your xp, I'd suggest Partition Magic. Resize your xp via PM. It will move files into the resized xp partition. Then use either PM to create and format a Linux partition (and a swap partition), or use a Linux installation cd to format the unused space into a Linux and Swap partition.
I've had good luck both ways. Though I no longer use windows; that's how I did it when I still had that *other os* on my computer.