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[SLUG] Script writing and understanding cron

Hey sluggers,
I'm very newbie at writing scripts or any sort of programming really.
Wondering where I would start to write a script that checked to see if the
PPP link was up and if it wasn't brought it up? I know that the modem lock
files would be useful cos nothing else uses the modem, so the existance of
/var/lock/LCK..ttyS0 is reasonable. Or is there a better way in /proc

The other question i have is how to understand the entries in crontab.
I have read a few cron tutuorials, and still don't exactly understand how to
make cron do something once an hour or once a day.
I don't exactly understand what each column means in the 6 or so *'s that
are at the start of the crontab entry. Anyone care to share the secret?