trouble with particles and normals

I’m having a little trouble with particles.
What I want is a building that falls apart in little pieces. Sadly I can’t even get a cube to blast into little cubes.
The trouble I have is that the normal speed doesn’t work. I’m using blender 2.43 btw, but i’ve used 2.45 too and it was even worse. Anyway, no matter how high I set the normal speed, anywhere from -2 to 2 , it just doesn’t change anything in je movement of the particles. The strange thing is that with static particles it works perfectly :S
can you help me, or at least show me how "normal"works anyway?